Listen to the Light by Michael J. Bowler
Michael J. Bowler’s Listen to the Light introduces the reader to twelve-year-old Colton Bowman. Colton lives in Northern California with his parents and his older brother, Austin, who is autistic and non-verbal. Colton speaks directly to the reader, explaining that his brother’s behavior embarrasses him and isolates him, especially because Colton tends to punch anybody who calls his brother “retarded” or makes fun of him in anyway. This earns Colton the nickname “Psycho Boy” and eventually even drives away his one remaining friend, Casey. That day, Colton is so angry that he storms into his brother’s room and tells Austin how much he hates him, and that he wishes that Austin would just disappear. Unfortunately, Austin does just that and Colton, eaten up by guilt, withdraws even more, spending every waking hour searching the woods behind his house for Austin. People come to believe, in fact, that Colton killed his brother. Colton, however, has other theories. After making contact with a girl named Keilani, whose autistic, non-verbal brother had also disappeared under similar circumstances, Colton becomes convinced that his brother was abducted by aliens. The truth, however, is even more extraordinary, as Colton learns when his brother returns as suddenly as he disappeared, five years later. Austin has not aged at all and, this time, Colton and his family are not the only ones who want answers.
Listen to the Light is a good story and will keep any reader on the edge of their seat. There are some stumbling blocks, however. For example, the first section of the story, prior to Austin’s return, seems rushed. More attention to detail in this area would shift this from a good story to a great story; specifically, less telling and more showing. The characters are not quite as interesting or compelling as they could be. Furthermore, some of the dialogue is stilted and unnatural, especially Colton’s. He does not sound like an adolescent of the twenty-first century. Nonetheless, the plot moves quickly and readers will want to stay with the story to the very end, despite these issues.