Hi, all! It’s Caitlyn here! October has begun, and with that means it’s the beginning of All Hallows Reads! If you’re anything like me, you also think that Fall is the perfect time to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good mystery/thriller, so I’m kicking off the season with a review of the newly released I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan.
In her small town, seventeen-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago, she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again. At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true-crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way. When another little girl goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers, with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much is she willing to reveal about herself in order to uncover the truth? Dee’s about to find out what’s really at stake in unraveling the mystery of the little girls who vanished.*
*Summary copied from Goodreads
- Title: I Hope You’re Listening
- Author: Tom Ryan
- Publisher: AW Teen
- Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller, LGBTQ+, Contemporary
- Age Range: Young Adult
- Trigger Warnings: child abduction, kidnapping, cults
- Rating: ★★★★☆
The moment I picked up I Hope You’re Listening, I knew that I would be hooked. I’m one of those readers who when picking up a mystery novel, want to be able to dissect every little clue, every moment, every character interaction, and while I love being right, the best mysteries for me are the ones that keep me guessing up until the very end. This book has that.
The greatest strength of this book, in my opinion, is the writing style. I found the writing style to be very straight forward in the best way; there wasn’t much information that was given that was not pertinent to the story being told. Everything was mentioned for a reason, even if you didn’t know it at the time. That made the twists even more exciting when you realize why something that was mentioned earlier was important. Something that Ryan excels at is setting the mood with his writing. For instance, the second Dee stepped into Mrs. Rose’s home, I knew that this would be an important piece in solving the mystery simply from the feeling I got through the writing style. I felt that the mystery of what happened to Sibby was well thought out and executed. The story easily unfolded in an interesting way; the anticipation built as the book went on and kept the reader guessing up until the very end.
I’m always very intrigued by books that include other forms of media in the writing style and I think that the inclusion of the podcast transcripts was incredibly well done. I think it would’ve been very easy to overuse the podcast transcripts or to just insert them randomly bringing the plot to a halt, in this case, they do the exact opposite. The longest podcast transcript is three pages, which I think is the perfect length. I loved that the podcast would follow one storyline until there was some sort of resolution to the story, it would’ve been easy to use these podcast transcripts as random inserts and to use ones from different stories. Instead, Ryan uses them to draw parallels between what Dee is going through and the stories that she’s covering in Radio Silent, which I thought was very smart writing. Though I will say that while I love the idea of the Laptop Detectives and their involvement, I found their inclusion at the end to be just a bit far fetched, as it all happened so quickly, but overall I think that the idea was sound.
I thought that there was some great characterization, especially with Dee. I think that overall, Dee was a very likable character, and her motivations were very clear. I also loved that Dee’s sexuality wasn’t a huge plot point. It simply was part of who she is as a character. However, I felt as though her relationship with Sarah was a bit underdeveloped. I wish we had gotten to know more about Sarah and see her relationship with Dee progress. Something else that I wish had been expanded upon was Dee’s friendship with Burke. With Burke and Dee being childhood friends of Sibby’s, as well as the only ones who have stayed in continual contact since her disappearance, I felt that there was more to that dynamic that could’ve been explored. Their friendship was one of the things I was most interested in. While Sarah was a perfectly fine character, in my opinion, there were many times where Burke could’ve been the one to help Dee instead and nothing would’ve changed. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Burke in general and to see in more detail how this whole situation was affecting him.
The majority of the characters that were introduced were introduced for very specific reasons and were all important to the story. However, there were some characters that fell into the throwaway category, mainly Dee’s family. We had a few moments with her parents, but I would’ve liked to see more of what their family dynamic was like as well as how they were dealing with the disappearance of Layla and how that would naturally bring up more thoughts and conversations about Siibby’s disappearance. For me, her parents fell into the absentee parents’ trope that’s commonly found in YA novels, which felt out of place considering the fact that their daughter had almost been kidnapped when she was seven years old. There was also the fact that Dee’s brothers were mentioned maybe two or three times towards the beginning but then we never heard of or about them again, they easily could’ve been left out of the story and it wouldn’t have really made a difference.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed I Hope You’re Listening and I would recommend it to any fan of mystery/thrillers!
About the Author
Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. His YA thriller KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF was the recipient of the 2020 ITW Thriller Award for best YA thriller and the 2020 Arthur Ellis Award for best YA mystery. Three of Tom’s novels have been chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, and he was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction. Tom, his husband, and their dog currently divide their time between Ontario and Nova Scotia.