The small town of Cryer’s Cross is rocked by tragedy when an unassuming freshman disappears without a trace. Kendall Fletcher wasn’t that friendly with the missing girl, but the angst wreaks havoc on her OCD-addled brain.
When a second student goes missing – someone close to Kendall’s heart – the community is in an uproar. Caught in a downward spiral of fear and anxiety, Kendall’s not sure she can hold it together. When she starts hearing the voices of the missing, calling out to her and pleading for help, she fears she’s losing her grip on reality. But when she finds messages scratched in a desk at school – messages that could only be from the missing student who used to sit there – Kendall decides that crazy or not, she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t act on her suspicions.
This is a simple, clean, and taut story that does not let you go.
When the narrative first started off, it felt a little removed and almost mathematical to me, which made complete sense once Kendall, the narrator, revealed she has OCD. McMann gives us a fascinating window into the mind of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder: the numbers, the repetitions, the way Kendall’s mind gets stuck in feedback loops. It gives this book an absolutely unique and compelling perspective.
As Oscar Wilde famously wrote: “The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” And McMann took that axiom very much to heart – from the palpable sense of dread that blankets the small town, to the fears playing out inside Kendall’s head, this book is a wonderful stew of tension. Even as Kendall goes about her everyday life, this story just simmers with suspense because we see the ways the mystery taints everything she does, like hearing discordant harmonies in a familiar song. McMann does a brilliant job building this story towards its conclusion.
Kendall does have a romantic interest in this story and I absolutely loved the way McMann went about developing the relationship. It was realistic, antagonistic and further complicated by Kendall’s inner struggle with the sense that she’s betraying her missing friend, that she shouldn’t be happy while this all is happening. Thank you, Lisa McMann, for a teenage romance that is both interesting and sweet.
The paranormal elements of this story are very light, and firmly planted in the context of the real world. And while I liked the otherworldly pieces, and I liked the story behind them, I thought how the conclusion dealt with those forces was a little too simple. I wish there had been another layer or two of discovery, another set of complications, because in the end all of that wonderful creepiness is wrapped up almost too quickly to be satisfying. Granted, this book is comes in shy of 250 pages, so there’s a brevity of time to work with, but I couldn’t help wishing there had been maybe 25 pages more to the supernatural resolution. I loved the build-up so much, I really wanted the finale to knock it out of the park – but still, even with the abbreviated nature of the ending, it delivered some genuinely creeptastic moments and a lovely conclusion to Kendall’s arc. It all worked, and worked well, I just wish there had been a bit more to it.
Still, this is a fun, fast, gripping read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. McMann proves once again that she excels at the dark, scary places where our world begins to bend.
Look for Cryer’s Cross February 8, 2011.
Byrt Grade: A
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Cryer’s Cross is creepy, mysterious, and completely absorbing. The intimacy of McMann’s small town setting makes this novel especially gripping–and foreboding. Kendall is an excellent protagonist, and her struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder not only add a whole new fascinating dimension to the story, but the way McMann uses it to uncover a vital clue to the mystery of disappearances in Cryer’s Cross is brilliant.
But ah, the creep factor. It is a slow and steady build, at least for me. Maybe it’s easier for me to believe that something not breathing could be evil (why I don’t know) but I totally believed the sinister presence in this book…Truly well done Ms. McMann! You had me creeped out and I know this is a book I’m going to be promoting as a spooky read.
There is one word to describe this book: WOW. It was so unique and compelling – it kept me turning pages…Will I reread it? Yes, I loved every single page of this book. I couldn’t put it down and when I did -I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I cannot wait to see what else Lisa has in store for all of us.