Before the plague, and the quarantine, fourteen-year-old Daniel Raymond had only heard of the Listeners. They were a gang, maybe even a cult, or at least that’s what his best friend Katie’s police officer father had said. They were criminals, thieves, monsters—deadly men clearly identifiable by the removal of their right ears.
That’s what Daniel had heard. But he didn’t know.
He didn’t know much in those early days. He didn’t know how the plague began, but then, no one did. The doctors and emergency medical personnel said it was airborne, and highly contagious. They said those infected became distorted both inside and out, and very, very dangerous.
Then the helicopters came and took the doctors away, and no one said much of anything after that.
Except the police officers. They said they’d provide food and order, in exchange for guns and, ultimately, anything else they felt like taking.
Daniel’s mother went out for toilet paper. She never came back. He hasn’t heard from Katie since the phones went dead. And with his real family gone and surrogate family unreachable, Daniel, scared and alone, has nothing except the walls of his apartment, the window shattered, the poisonous air seeping in.
That’s when the Listeners arrive. Derek, the one-eared man with the big, soulful eyes, promises protection, and hope, and the choice not to sit alone and wait to die in some horrific way. He offers a brotherhood under the watch of their leader, the prophet Adam. He offers a place in the world to come.
A harrowing work of literary horror, The Listeners, Harrison Demchick’s electrifying debut, is a dark and terrifying journey into loneliness, desperation, and the devastating experience of one young boy in a world gone mad.
Study Guide Questions
1. Did the Listeners continue on their conquest after they could not find Daniel?
2. Did any of them find Zeke?
3. Did Zeke go back to the Listeners?
4. Did Zeke or any other Listener find the sewer exit?
5. Would the disease really ever work its course, or would everyone simply die?
6. Could a world full of Sickos exist “normally”?
7. If Derek and Adam were both Cops together, why was Derek simply a Listener?
8. Did Tanya ever get sick?
9. What became of the two doctors trapped in the hospital?
10. Flower was given a child to whom the Sickos would not go near. Would they still stay away from her when she grew up?
31. What kind of disease is the virus?
12. Why do birds never seem to be sick? Are there any other animals that get sick?
13. Was the first sicko who yelled at Daniel through the window Roy from the bar? If so, then who was the man with the bald woman? If not, who was that Sicko?
14. The recorded conversation with Weathers and Powers implies that Anne was killed. But she was very much alive in her apartment. What could they mean?
15. How does the disease really spread?
16. Whose is the “little house on Pleasant Valley Avenue”? And why did they write that poem?
17. Do homeless people actually see the future?
18. If the Listeners let Brian walk away when they think he is infected, why did Terry try to kill Daniel?
19. What is the significance of Daredevil?
Reading Group Guide
1. Does the book suggest that the disease came from somewhere, if so, where?
2. What happened to each of the characters from the “Respite” chapters?
3. What happened to Anne?
4. What was the significance of the tapes recovered in the police station?
5. Why did Zeke hesitate so much and not shoot Daniel?
6. Did anyone else escape the Borough?
7. Did Daniel go back to the Listeners?
8. Did Zeke ever tell them everything?
9. Was Daniel sick?
10. What happened to his mother?
11. Of the sickos who were killed, do we know any of them? If so, who?
12. Why do the Listeners cut off the right ear and not the left?
13. What does it mean to the story if Derek and Adam were cops?
14. Was Katie’s father actually bad?
15. Was Daniel attracted to Katie?
16. What do you think became of Flower, if she was essentially safe from the virus?
17. Why do the sickos avoid babies?
18. For what does the Sicko on the beginning blame Daniel? Was it really his fault?
19. How does the disease spread?
20. Who was the homeless man and why was he safe?