Book recommendation: Billy, by Whitley Strieber

Yes, I’m still getting through all of the older books I took home from my parents’ house. Which means I have another recommendation for one of those older books today. But, I promise that I’ll have a newer book recommendation for you next week. I need a bit of a break from all of the adult thrillers I’ve been reading lately — and most of the books I brought home from my parents’ house seem to be in that genre.

Anyway, today I’m introducing you to Billy, by Whitley Strieber. Or, reintroducing you to it, if you’ve already read it. Billy is a fantastic novel, full of tension, moments of horror, and dynamic characters. But my favourite aspect of the novel, by far, is how much time it dedicates to its antagonist.

Billy Neary, a 12-year-old boy, has been living a fairly happy life with his parents and sister. But one afternoon, Billy attracts the attention of Barton Royal, a man who has been searching the area where Billy lives for a young boy to take home with him. Barton wants a son, and Billy’s good looks, intelligence, and polite nature are exactly what Barton is looking for.

As I mentioned, this novel is filled with tension. From the moment it opens to its eventual conclusion, the reader isn’t quite sure what to expect. Sure, we know that Barton manages to kidnap Billy — the book’s summary doesn’t hide this — but we don’t know how Barton manages it, or what will happen to Billy once the kidnapping takes place.

Suspense on it’s own is always an appealing factor for me. But I have to give Strieber a lot of credit for building the suspense the way he did, considering much of the novel is told from Barton’s point of view.

Barton is such a unique character; from the moment we meet him, it’s clear that he isn’t entirely sane. And that he’s likely a very dangerous man. But, despite how well we get to know Barton, it’s often hard to tell what he’s going to do next, because Barton doesn’t always know what he’s going to do next. It takes a lot of skill to portray a character like that in a believable way, and I think Strieber did a great job of it.

So, if you don’t pick this novel up purely because of the plot’s draw, then I recommend you pick it up so you can get to know Barton. He’s the type of character I can’t help but want to get into the mind of — even if he is very much a villain.

Summary from the back of the novel

He picked Billy out of a crowd at the mall, followed his every step, obsessed with this bright, perfect child. He would take him far away, keep him as the son he’d always wanted. For Barton Royal, finding Billy was a dream come true.

For Billy Neary, torn from the security of his loving family, it was a nightmare beyond his imagination. And the terror had only just begun…

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