Publication Date: 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? 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.
(Highlight to view spoilers)
There are so very many things to love about this book:
- It is a horror book! For teens! McMann delivers the shivers and goose bumps. The danger to the characters feels ever-present and real. And when the "bad guy(s)" are revealed, they are truly bad.
- The main character has OCD - a serious problem. It is nice to see a character have something going on other than angsting about who does or doesn't like her and where she's going to sit at lunch (socially, I mean). Kendall's OCD is often very believable. When it was shown, it felt authentic. (More on that later)
- The families in Cryer's Cross are great. Kendall's parents are supportive and present in her life. Other YA authors should take note: parents do not have to be absent for creepy things/ adventure to happen. Kendall's mother especially is just wonderful. Likewise, Jacián's family feels very real. Things are obviously not perfect, but Jacián's interactions with his grandfather and sister feel spot on. They show the affection and the frustration.
- The romance feels real for the characters. There is no isnta-love or stalker-love going on here. (Spoiler) Which is wonderful considering Jacián is considered a suspect at the start of the book and could have very easily slipped into the whole bad-boy-insta-love trope. (End Spoiler) Jacián has interests outside of Kendall, and it is through shared interests that they become interested in each other. And some of the scenes are downright uncomfortable in the way it seems only the beginning of a teen romance can be.
But I have some problems with it as well:
- The deep, dark secret of the town seems to stay a little too deep for too long. I wish that the history had been fleshed out just a little more. Maybe a little earlier? And, possibly, through Kendall doing some digging rather than having another character info-dump. I wanted more information. I don't think that would have in any way detracted from the mystery or the scare factor - I think it would have made it more scary.
- I wish we had a little more back story with Nico. I would have been less uncomfortable with how Kendall behaves at times, and how the story progressed at times, had we been able to see that Kendall and Nico were more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend, rather than having to be told that by Jacián. I also wish we had seen a little more of Jacián on his own. I want to know this character a little better.
- I understand that with any disorder, it can be hard to accurately describe it without being patronizing or completely missing the boat. I think McMann was walking a fine line, and did neither of those things. BUT, her descriptions were at times a little too DMS. Show me, don't tell me. Kendall had way more thoughts about her OCD than OCD thoughts; we were often told her OCD kicked in, not shown. Also, I get that Nico and her mother would be very understanding and supportive of Kendall's behavior - they've been around her since birth. However, it was a bit of a stretch to have Jacián be so well versed about OCD from the get go.
- This is more of a personal issue. (Spoiler) I hated the last four sentences of the book. I get it. I really do. It is way more creepy if things are left a little open. That is why there are (how many?) "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies. HOWEVER, it just feels cruel. Given the history of how this particular nightmare was created, I think a little peace is in order. I don't mind a little unhappiness in my endings. In fact, at times I like it. But we're talking about kids here. Kids who went through unspeakable horrors. Are we really going to keep them locked in unrest for some additional spook? After the initial goose bump rush, I closed the book and thought about it. Then it just kind of ticked me off.(End Spoiler)
Overall, it was a great read. It took me two hours start to finish, and I enjoyed all of it. Most of the problems that I had with the book would have been solved if the book had been longer. I like McMann's writing, her ideas, her story. I just wish there had been more of it. I would easily recommend it. I think it is an excellent quick read for those looking for something a little different from the usual YA fare. I also think it would be a great book to pass along to teen boys reluctant to read YA.
Borrowed from my Local Library.
Review first appeared on Goodreads