January 25, 2011

Review: Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Simon Pulse
ISBN: 1416994815
Release Date: February 8, 2011
Pre-Order Information:
Amazon | Banes & Noble | Book Depository

*Novel generously provided by the publisher.

For more information please visit Lisa McMann's website.

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.


Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann is definitely not your average read. In fact, it was quite different from other YA novels that I've read focused on missing persons. While this novel didn't manage to meet my expectations  it was still well written with an interesting plot that kept me reading.

I think a lot of my issues stem from the fact that this novel was so short with most of the novel being dedicated to the world building, which was actually really nicely done. Cryer's Cross is a little blip on the map and McMann does an excellent job in bringing the reader into this small world away from computers, cell phones, and pretty much every other luxury we take for granted. You get a very intense look at what it is like living on a farm with a one room school house for high school students where the only fun break from the humdrum of work and school is a round of soccer. The atmosphere was a little lacking though. I had hoped since this novel would focus on teens going missing there would be more of a sense of unease or creepiness, but this novel was actually strangely anemic in this department. In fact, I found most of the atmosphere was created through the character's emotions, and not all the effectively.

In fact, for me, the characters we severely underdeveloped. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy them, I did. Kendall is an interesting girl and I loved how she dealt with her OCD. This is rarely addressed in novels and yet it's a very real problem for many. It was educational seeing what someone with this particular issue went through in their daily life and the constant worry about needing to stick to their routines even though the emotions and needs used within this novel were very broad and generalised. And yet, despite these types of little details and issues the characters had to cope with, I felt they were still very one dimensional with their emotionality severely underdeveloped for teens between the ages of 16-18. In truth, I didn't really come to feel any connection to them until more then half way through the novel when Jacian and Kendall finally start becoming closer. Their budding friendship followed slowly by the development of their deeper feelings was great to watch develop as the characters themselves started to grow. But, this romance was short lived and quickly glossed over, too much so for my tastes, leaving so much unsaid and unknown.

The writing style while mildly abrupt made this a really quick read. The sense of mystery was intriguing and kept me reading, curious to know what really happened to the two teens who disappeared in such a small town. The additional entries under the WE headings added a definite question about who or what had taken them. I wish I could go into further detail, but once again, I don't want to give away any of the major plot lines and because this was such a short book with such a small window of revelation that's extremely easy to do. Let it suffice to say that the climax for me was really anticlimactic if not a little silly, especially given the rest of the novel.

Now all of this isn't to say that this wasn't a good read because overall I did enjoy it, but like I've mentioned above there were a lot of things that could have been done to make this a really good novel versus an okay one. For instance, more characterization. It seems like most of the novel is spent creating a friendship between Nico and Kendall followed closely by her pining for her missing friend. In truth, I got the connection quickly and the rest was merely beating a dead horse. Instead I would have liked to see more focus put on Jacian and Kendall's growing friendship and the loss explored through that angle. Of course, this was done mildly through the novel, but it felt very ineffectual. All and all, this sense of loss and grieving is not so unusual, but it's the lack of emotionality that kept me from connecting to her and her situation. Also, the emotionality that we did get was very blase for a teenager. All the emotions and thoughts were merely hinted at, but not truly experienced. And again, there was Kendall's gradual friendship with Jacian. I would have liked to see more of this as I enjoyed Jacian's character, but again, their friendship was very tentative and not very deeply explored. In truth we don't really get to know much about Jacian which I found rather sad. And lastly, there was the climax of the novel. I think if we would have found out more about the history that led up to it, it would have helped. Or perhaps if the answer to the mystery would have been tied more closely to the ending instead of mentioned once seemingly at random, it would have seemed a little less ridiculous. Again, I'm sorry to be vague, but I don't want to spoil the ending for those who will enjoy it.

Overall, I found this was a decent enough read that kept me interested for the few hours it took me to get through it. It's not an overly heavy book and it's a quick and easy read for anyone looking for a bit of psychological horror on a YA scale.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Mild violence, language and some horror

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