Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Published February 8, 2011.

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? Andhow 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. (


I'm just saying. Young adult novels as a whole today have a deep void, a precipice if you will, where horror should be. And not the glittering, pussy, it-has-fangs-lets-call-it-horror type of horror either. The good horror. The horror that has you looking over your shoulder, sleeping with a nightlight or just not sleeping at all. I saw this in Cryer's Cross.

Now I have to say, my expectations for a horror novel is pretty high and while Cryer's Cross didn't hit the top, it was still up there.

Here's a story not bogged down with romance (point 1). Yeah, it's kind of there but it's not front and center and the point of the story. It proves for a good distraction but that's about it.

It relies on the creep factor (point 2). It's not about gore. It's about scaring the everloving crap out of the main character. She's not supposed to have a good time. She's supposed to be worried. She's supposed to be hearing voices. She's supposed to be pushed to the edge.

It's filled with fearless author (point 3). I haven't read McMann's other works but let me tell you, she's wearing her ovaries on the outside for this one. She is fearless with her characters. No one is safe. No one's sacred and everyone can be a victim. Love it. She's taken that security blanket you were holding on to and damn near strangled you with it. You should feel uncomfortable. You should be worrying about whether Kendall makes it out alive. You should feel insecure. Nothing is clear and everything's fair game.

It has evil history (point 4). It's the basis of so many good horror novels. The little hick town hiding a deep, dark secret and now that secret is salivating for the children of those secret keepers. It's kind of like Freddie but without the unadulterated access. History alone can be the monster in the closet. No need to have actual monsters in the story. And McMann utilizes that. Buried secrets were all she needed.

It doesn't end happily. Not really (point 5). There's always that lingering thing. The problem's solved. For now. Until the secret finds a new home and a new way to manifest. And from the looks of things, it could very well do that. This should loop you back around nicely to point 3 and feeling ill at ease.

Now, what I wish the story had was more of the dark history. I felt it was such a fleeting element in the story, brought in to serve a purpose and then brushed away. I would have been wholly happy with another 50 pages fleshing the history out a little more. As I read I kept wanting to pull it out, will it further away from the pages and into life. I felt it was always just out of reach. It was there; I could see it. But I could barely touch it. It kept slipping out of my fingers. I wanted more.

I wasn't all that convinced with Kendall's OCD though. I felt it made things a little too easy. I get the hindrance becomes a help factor with it all but I felt it played too seamlessly into the story. I like my horror a little more rugged, a little harder to earn. While I like that Kendall did suffer (as demented as that sounds), the stepping stones were placed a little too neatly for my liking. That's not to say it wasn't good. It was fantastically written but like I said, I like my horror a little rougher around the edges. A little less neat.

Please, please, PLEASE! I'm begging the authors of YA to write more horror like this. Ms. McMann, please tell me you have more creepy stories up your sleeves. I honestly can't get enough of these stories and I think there's such an excellent gap waiting to be filled with a proper creepfest. Cryer's Cross is an excellent throwback to the YA horror of yore where it was more about keeping you up at night than keeping you swooning the rest of the time. You want horror? Read Cryer's Cross. Preferably with the light on. And if you happen to have an antique school house writing desk in your home, you'll probably want to get rid of it after you finish this. You don't want it to start talking to you or anything.


Jessica said...

Effing awesome review Donna. I have glanced at the book in the book store from time to time...but now, I MUST read it. Great job.

T.V and Book Addict said...

Hmm you've peaked my interest.

Kahlan said...

A great review. I've been wondering about this book, and now I must have it!

Nicola said...

Well, I didn't read your review because I have this coming up in my tbr pile *but* the bold red words and your rating sure stood out! Now I'm even more excited to read it than before.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Sounds fantastic! I have read the author's other books and really enjoyed them. I completely agree with you on the state of YA horror. There's way too much glitter and sparkly feelings in most to be really called horror. Paranormal romance, maybe?

Mireia said...

I wanted this book, and now after read your review I want more...
I read the dreamcatcher saga and I recommend to you.

Kisses ;D

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