Billy Neary is a bright, well-adjusted twelve-year-old living with his family in a small American town. Barton Royal is a cunning, maladjusted 44-year-old loner — fat, sweaty and unpredictable, and searching for a boyhood he never had. When he sees Billy, he knows that with the aid of an ether-soaked rag he will soon have this perfect boy all to himself — to love and cherish.
For surely this one will be different? Surely this one he won’t have to take into that secret black room beneath his house?
Billy, by Whitley Strieber
© Copyright 1990 by Wilson & Neff, Inc.
Futura Publications 1992
Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t see yourself finishing? Billy is one of those books. It’s creepy and twisted and disturbing and downright upsetting. There were numerous times throughout reading this novel where I was afraid to continue, and it takes a lot to turn me off of a book.
The thing is, it’s a good book. It pulls you in, makes you care about the characters, makes you relate to how the characters are feeling, and then it makes you worried. You literally start to dread the ending of the book because, by the way things are shaping up, it won’t end well for dear old Billy. The tears that would follow, the fear of those tears? How would Billy’s mother react? His father, sister? What would happen to Barton? What about poor, poor Billy?
Damn it! That’s what keeps you going. The dreaded, agonizing, taunting questions. Your mind won’t let you stop reading, even though you know─dear God do you know─that this book is going to leave you crying just like the first time you watched Old Yeller.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that the story isn’t without its flaws. There are a couple of scenes that just don’t seem realistic. Of course, I welcomed those, very few, moments because they helped remind me that this was just a story. That there’s no way that things like this don’t happen all the time, that people like this don’t exist in the real world─and then you keep blood-well reading! I swear, it was a gimmick from the start. Strategically placed bibs and bobs to ensure that you make it to the end.
It worked. Boy did it ever work.
I finished the book in about five days. It was a huge battle from start to finish. While I was reading, I couldn’t put it down. When I was considering picking it back up, I had to stop and think about whether or not I really wanted to know. As it turns out, I had to know.
The real question is would I recommend this book to others?
That’s actually a really hard question to answer. Yes, I would recommend Billy to others, but I’d do so carefully. For example, I wouldn’t recommend it to my mother or anyone who’s got a track record of being quite empathetic, and I most-certainly wouldn’t recommend this story to, or someone close to, anyone who has been the victim of abuse. There are some definite triggers in the story that might cause distress. However, if none of those describe you, you should definitely read this book.