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Dark Ride

Lou Berney's latest brings us an unlikely hero!

Twenty-one-year-old Hardy is called "Hardley" and is a stoner, a scare actor at an amusement park, and generally drifting apathetically through life. A chance encounter with two injured children has him reporting it to Child Protective Services. But Hardy is a former foster child and cannot look away or shake the feeling these kids need him to do more. He begins to investigate, and his early efforts aren't the best, but his heart is in the right place. Soon, unexpected allies help him, and Hardy gradually uncovers more danger than he ever anticipated. The kids' father and abuser is a lawyer running a violent drug dealing operation.

This book surprised me in a good way! I wasn't expecting the emotions that came up while reading a dark, suspenseful thriller! Although it is layered and nuanced in terms of social commentary and the main character's complexity, this was pretty straightforward plot-wise, making what was in it hit harder for me. Set against the backdrop of abuse, the limitations and pitfalls of the system, and a fight against people who hold power, this brought up some very serious and sad issues and was thought-provoking.

Balancing the darker parts of the story was some humor and a great character study. I love a good underdog story, and flawed but big-hearted Hardy really had me rooting for him! His growth across the book, finding purpose and learning that he was more than anyone, including himself, had ever given him credit for, was very well done. I also loved the friends who helped him along the way. They were quirky and offbeat! I wished the villain had been fleshed out more, but understand the book was about Hardy and his journey. The writing and pacing were great, and I enjoyed how character-driven this was. This was first book by Lou Berney but it will not be my last!

Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for the opportunity to review this ARC. I enjoyed it!


From Lou Berney, the acclaimed, multi award-winning author of November Road and The Long and Faraway Gone, comes a Dark Ride

Sometimes the person you least expect is just the hero you need

Twenty-one-year-old Hardy “Hardly” Reed—good-natured, easygoing, usually stoned—is drifting through life. A minimum-wage scare actor at an amusement park, he avoids unnecessary effort and unrealistic ambitions.

Then one day he notices two children, around six or seven, sitting all alone on a bench. Hardly checks if they’re okay and sees injuries on both children. Someone is hurting these kids.

He reports the incident to Child Protective Service.

That should be the end of it. After all, Hardly's not even good at looking out for himself so the last thing he wants to do is look out for anyone else. But he's haunted by the two kids, his heart breaking for them. And the more research he does the less he trusts that Child Protective Services —understaffed and overworked—will do anything about it.

That leaves…Hardly. He is probably the last person you’d ever want to count on. But those two kids have nobody else but him. Hardly has to do what's right and help them.

For the first time in his life, Hardly decides to fight for something. This might be the one point in his entire life, he realizes, that is the entire point of his life. He will help those kids.

At first, trying to gather evidence that will force the proper authorities to intervene, Hardly is a total disaster. Gradually, with assistance from unexpected allies, he develops investigative skills and discovers he’s smarter and more capable than he ever imagined.

But Hardly also discovers that the situation is more dangerous than he ever expected. The abusive father who has been hurting these children isn’t just a lawyer—he also runs a violent drug-dealing operation. The mother claims she wants to escape with the kids—but Hardly isn't sure he can trust her.

Faced with a different version of himself than he has ever known, Hardly refuses to give up. But his commitment to saving these kids from further harm might end up getting the kids, and Hardly himself, killed.

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