Author: Lisa McMann
Genre: Horror/ YA
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: February 8, 2011
Paperback: 240 pages
The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on… until Kendall’s boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it’s crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear…and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating…and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico’s mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: A book fairy got me an ARC
Why did I read this book: I thought it sounded cool and I LOVE the cover.
16-year-old OCD-sufferer Kendall lives in Cryer’s Cross (population 212), a small close-knit farming town in Montana where kids are disappearing without a trace. A freshman named Tiffany was the first, followed shortly by Kendall’s best-friend-maybe-boyfriend Nico. In the aftermath of Nico’s disappearance, Kendall struggles with the need to let go and with her overwhelming grief, all mixed with the hope that he might come back. Not to mention her growing feelings for Jacian, the new guy in town. Then, Kendall notices possible connections between Nico and Tiffany’s disappearance and is dragged into a whole new level of Creepy.
And looking at Cryer’s Cross as a horror story at its core, creepy it most certainly is as it effectively struck fear in this reader’s heart. It is that old-fashioned horror that mixes old-towns, mysteries and horrible secrets. The horror though creeps up slowly and it is not until close to the ending that it takes over the story. Before that, Cryer’s Cross is mostly a tale of grief and new beginnings. I find that, having read another book by this author before (Wake), horror, grief and romance are her greatest strengths when writing a story. The relationship between Kendall and Jacian develops nicely and I was invested in their growing connection even if theirs was not a particularly original story (the “bad boy” with a heart of gold storyline).
With regards to the narrative, Cryer’s Cross is written in third person, present tense from Kendall’s point of view with short, staccato sentences. This seems to be Lisa McMann’s signature style. Whereas I thought it worked really well for a story like Wake which dealt with nightmares and followed the main character’s episodic life, overall I don’t think it was a perfect fit for Cryer’s Cross . Although it might have worked to stress tension and the growing horror, when it comes to character development, it is difficult to convey growth in such a style – at least I felt that’s what happened here. In a way that is probably why Kendall’s OCD feels like it was been used as a shortcut to characterise Kendall. The ending was particularly frustrating in this regard: I loved like you wouldn’t believe how really horrific it was but then the OCD card was pulled (“Her OCD brain churns“) to explain how Kendall is able to save herself and I am still wondering how exactly that happened.
Plus for such a short book where the horror story develops so late, quite a lot of it is spent in inane details:
He nods. Doesn’t look at her.
“What did he say about the team?”
He pulls the key from the ignition. Opens his door. “He said he’ll let us know what’s going to happen at practice today.” He clears his throat and gets out of the truck. Heads for the door to the school and goes inside. Kendall gets out too and shuts the door. Watches the students coming to school in groups now. And then she feels her chest tighten.
It was quite frustrating and I dare say that the level of enjoyment and connection with the story will probably depend on whether the reader enjoys the writing style or not. In the end, for me, the horror and the romance worked well enough in spite my misgivings with the narrative.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: The ending was totally creeptastic!
Rating: 6 Good but recommended with reservations
Reading Next: Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger