A Brilliantly Transgressive YA Novel: Kelley York’s “Hushed” (A Review)

Book cover for Kelley York's "Hushed"

Book cover for Kelley York’s “Hushed”

Murder. Love. Torment. Loss. Redemption. What more can you ask for in a book?

When first approaching Kelley York’s Hushed, it would be easy to classify the novel as a young adult adaptation of Showtime’s notorious show Dexter (a television program that one of my friends calls “every English major’s favorite show”). And while the novel’s main character has strong ties to Dexter‘s protagonist–in the sense that we see a serial killer who only murders “bad” people–Archer (the novel’s protagonist) is characterized by being able to feel remorse, empathy, and regret. York’s novel is a powerhouse of emotion driven by strong lead characters and a gripping plot that literally gave me goosebumps multiple times. The novel’s twist of events is quite unexpected, and until the very end of the novel, you have no clue what the outcome of the plot will be.

In a nutshell, college student Archer is unable to live with the fact that he was unable to protect Vivian (his best friend) from harm when they were younger. Vowing to protect her from then on, Archer is bent on killing all of the people that hurt Vivian in the past, including but not limited to her own brother.

Archer becomes obsessed with Vivian to the point of infatuation, and he remains faithfully by her side even when she clearly uses him and manipulates him for her own devious devices. This co-dependence develops to the point where Vivian becomes Archer’s everything. He soon recognizes that once he loses his everything, he will end up with nothing. That is, until Archer befriends Evan: the one person who seems to care about Archer without expecting anything in return. Archer and Evan’s friendship slowly but steadily blossoms into a romance… a romance that Vivian isn’t willing to tolerate.

There are many things I loved about this novel. First and foremost, I absolutely loved the dark, serious, and downright violent tone that the novel embraced. It was quite refreshing to see this novel deviate from the safe and the suggestive nature that is usually incorporated in habitual YA novels. This one was not afraid to shy away from violence; however, this violence is anything but gratuitous. Everything that happens in the novel, in spite of its graphic nature, immensely adds to the complexity and the development of its characters. I thought it was wonderful how various elements of the novel transgressed the norms of YA fiction without entirely obliterating them.

Speaking of character development, this is clearly York’s forte (as it should be with any well-written novel). I particularly appreciated how York approached the protagonist’s sexual identity. He is never depicted or described as an overtly gay character, and he does admit that he is infatuated by Vivian. Yet, the development of his romance with Evan seems completely organic and appropriate, and York does a splendid job at illustrating Archer’s venture into this unexplored territory, without ever dwelling on the repercussions or implications of being in a same-sex relationship. This is most certainly NOT a “coming-out” novel. Unless my memory is failing me, I don’t recall the word gay being used once, which is more than welcome in my book. It’s about time that homosexuality is presented as a non-issue!

Vivian and Evan are also very strong characters: while Vivian is clearly the villain that we love to hate, Evan assumes the role of the moral compass able to see the gray areas between good and evil. Even minor characters such as Archer’s cold and distant mom manage to invoke and stir strong emotions and reactions!

In due course, this book is simply one of the best young adult novels that I’ve read all year. Well, I would go as far as to say that regardless of genre, it’s one of the best books I’ve read within the last couple of years. I find that the content and the style of the novel will please younger and older readers alike. I also love how the novel doesn’t hesitate to explore the trenches of the human mind that all of us are afraid to explore. It’s ironic that the novel is called Hushed, yet it has so much to say.

You can purchase a copy of Hushed in the following web sites:

Amazon.com – Kelley York’s Hushed

BarnesAndNoble.com – Kelley York’s Hushed

4 thoughts on “A Brilliantly Transgressive YA Novel: Kelley York’s “Hushed” (A Review)

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