Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Desks and Small Towns: My Review of "Cryer's Cross" by Lisa McCann

Cautiously she slips her fingers over the new graffiti, back and forth, as Nico’s voice fills her ears. Her heart pounds. How can this be happening?
Cryer’s Cross Lisa McCann, pp. 153

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.

                The cover for this was amazing. Just take a second and look at it. For anyone like me (re. love the creepiness of life) this cover screams gothic ghost stories! And therefore, before reading the synopsis or watching the kick ass book trailer – I decided I was going to read this. As a huge fan of paranormal, gothic, creepy stories that will keep me up at night – how could I resist?

                And here’s the kicker:

                While I enjoyed Cryer’s Cross as a story … creepy gothic stay-up-all-night-with-the-lights-on it is not. Like, at all. Which is too bad since that’s what I wanted, but not so bad that I wouldn’t recommend it for other qualities.

                (1) A strong female character who is ordinary.
                Kendall seems at first to be quiet, shy, a little homebody for my likes and a lot less adventurous then I usually take my female heroines as. And then we get to be inside her head, hear her fears and her overcoming them, watch as she pushed through her own problems to get to a resolution about her life. She is an amazingly reflective person. In a demonstration of show not tell, Kendall tracks her own feelings as they change when her best friend disappears, when her soccer season is cancelled and when this new guy – who is kind of a jerk, keeps popping up in her life.

                As far as strong female characters go, Kendall is up there in brute human strength of will – she has OCD, and so already has her own issues to deal with, but on top of that, she is the only girl in her grade, lives in a very small town with dreams of moving to New York to Dance (I really wish this was explored more), and she relies on rituals and habits to keep her sane and moving forwards. The events of the novel shake everything she understands, and yet Kendall does not demurely back down and hope for the best – she strives to know what happened, why the children are disappearing, and who could be next. Though she tends to try and stay an arm’s length from those around her, her emotional turmoil at Nico’s disappearance hits its target and her struggle to realize that she truly misses and cares for her best friend is heart breaking.

                Despite all the things that stand in her way, Kendall pushed forwards and solves the mystery – she puts her own life into peril – so long as she can have closure where it concerns Nico’s disappearance.

                For me, the worth of a heroine is in her pushing through her normalcy into the greatness she becomes – to work past her fears in order to accomplish what she set out to accomplish. The more faults she has – the more areas of weakness or distress that she can overcome, the more of a realistic character and worthwhile heroic figure, she is. Having extra powers and visions or a supporting cast full of helpful individuals can also make a good story, but they may also (And usually do) take away from the development of the heroine.

                (2) The Potential.

                I mentioned that it looked all gothic creepy and I wanted me a piece? Yes, that’s the kind of potential I am talking about – it’s the type of idea that sparks and you’re like “Yes! Finally! It will be so good!” And even if it isn’t, initially, what you think it will be, the good news is that this culture of ours loves to rehash everything – so maybe, with any hope a movie, miniseries or tv show will come out called “Cryer’s Cross” and it will get the super eerie treatment and more chemistry in the lurve department the spark of the idea deserved.

                Because my real only criticism is this: it was too short for the idea. The idea was brilliant – a throwback to those good old days when Are you Afraid of the Dark? was on and I was deep in a pile of L.J. Smith books. It has the potential of those great YA thrillers by Caroline B Cooney, where the heroine goes on a journey to discover truth, regardless of her own danger. But it was all dealt with too quickly – and left me wishing Lisa McCann would take a few more hours and a pen and write it out like I know it should be.

                And I do recommend  this book – it is a good story, but it could have been so much more.

                Read and discover for yourselves! 

Read if you liked:
  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvater 
  • The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney

Up next to Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire 

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