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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED OCTOBER 6TH, 2020
This time, the mystery is personal.
While Tom Ryan’s debut, Keep This to Yourself, was a murder mystery at heart, I Hope You’re Listening is a new mystery, one with a much more sentimental air. Ten years after Dee witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby, another child goes missing in her small town, and all signs point to the two incidents sharing common origins. What already rattles Dee starts to eat away at her more than ever, and forces her to face everything she’s learned and felt in the years since Sibby disappeared. More than that, she has to acknowledge the role she can play as the Seeker, the voice for those missing, if she wants to find the latest vanished girl.
Really, though, with all the personal ties clouding the way is it even possible?
I Hope You’re Listening finds its primary ingredient in grief.
It’s more character driven than Keep This to Yourself, if you ask me, with a greater amount of introspection and interpersonal conflict. That’s not to say it lacks mystery, though! Of course I loved the elements that give this its mystery flavor: Dee tracking down clues, the past rearing its ugly head, and so much more.
The heart, though, is in the grief surrounding Sibby Carmichael’s disappearance, and its links to the latest case. While it’s one thing to be the anonymous Seeker for cases Dee has no connection to, it’s entirely another to dig into her own traumatic past, even if it means saving a child’s life. Ten years ago, she watched kidnappers whisk her best friend away, and could do absolutely nothing to help. What seven year old child stands a chance against adults in such a scenario? But she blames herself all the same. No one else does, but everything she didn’t do to save Sibby haunts her.
And with the newest case, that haunting grows stronger. She’s torn between not making the same “mistakes” over again (not that anyone would accuse her of making mistakes the first time), and confronting the overwhelming emotion that accompanies a revisit of her deepest trauma. Even worse, it affects her relationship with her loved ones, sometimes in ways that hurt, and with good reason.
Really, I marvel at the strength in Dee’s character. She’s remarkably well-rounded, and stands in a position no teenager should ever feel they must stand in. I can’t fault her for the sometimes brusque way she treats others, or her secretive paranoia, or the ever-changing tension in her relationships. She feels utterly human, and I have to love what that brings to the book!
Relationships, really, form another important ingredient.
Dee’s relationship to Sibby is the source of her grief and guilt. Her relationship with Sarah is a chance at a fresh start, or even understanding. Meanwhile, she can trust her parents to trust her, even if they don’t always show their support in the way she would most prefer. Her best friend has her back, even when it hurts, her school enemy is trying to help, even if she’s not particularly kind about it, and the Laptop Detective Agency trusts her direction and ability to find the truth, even if they don’t know her beyond her podcast pseudonym.
This web is so deeply important to every facet of I Hope You’re Listening. It’s the deep tethers of relationships or the fragile lack thereof that spur everything onward, whether in the present or ten years ago, and I absolutely adore how cleanly this merges both character and plot.
I also appreciate that we do get another queer relationship from Tom Ryan, and that there’s minimal bigotry to accompany it. Sure, I wish the LI had a little more substance, but also? Dee deserves some peace and happiness and support, so I can’t really complain about her getting a good girlfriend.
I Hope You’re Listening deserves a place on your shelves.
Releasing October 6th, just around the corner, it’s already earned a place on mine (once I have money again 😭). Between a high level of enjoyment, excellent characters, and threads that come to complete ends, I have to recommend it. Sure, it will require a little extra suspension of disbelief from you (similarly to Keep This to Yourself, which maybe stretched a bit in the final chapters), but if you can get past the tiniest bit of that, I fully believe you’ll find an enjoyable, rewarding mystery.
And maybe if you want the full experience, you’ll give it a go on audiobook! It doesn’t have big podcast sections like Courtney Summers’s Sadie, but I suspect it will pair nicely with the audio experience.
CW: loss of a loved one, kidnapping, suicide mention, smoking, drug use, animal death mention, homophobia