Karen Keyte's Reviews > Cryer's Cross

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
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's review
Jul 28, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: teen-paranormal, teen-girls-adventure-mystery, teen-romantic
Read from July 18 to 22, 2011

"Everything changes when Tiffany Quinn disappears." - Kendall Fletcher

It's unthinkable, impossible for a girl to vanish in Cryer's Cross, Montana (population 212). Unthinkable that anything bad, possibly criminal, could happen in this close-knit agricultural community. Impossible for the shy, sweet ninth grade girl could have run off on her own. And yet she is gone - disappeared without a trace. One hundred seventy eight of the town's residents - basically everyone who wasn't too young, too old or too ill - spent several long days searching for Tiffany, combing every field and forest, but they never found a single piece of evidence to shed light on what might have happened to her. She is simply gone.

Kendall Fletcher wasn't close to Tiffany (she was two years younger than Kendall, after all), but of course, she knew her. With only twenty-four students in the entire high school, everyone knows everyone else. Living with OCD as she does, Kendall finds Tiffany's disappearance especially troubling. It's difficult enough for her to adapt to ordinary changes in her routine; the inexplicable disappearance of a classmate is anything but ordinary. All summer long, as Kendall works in the fields of her family's potato farm, possible explanations for Tiffany's disappearance play on endless loops in her obsessive mind. Given that the explanations are accompanied by gruesome visual images, it's something of a relief for Kendall when fall roles around and she begins her senior year of high school. Now, at least, she can obsess about the usual things - the alignment of the desks, the arrangement of the curtains, the order of the whiteboard markers.

As it turns out, Kendall's relief is extremely short-lived. Barely a week into the school year, someone else disappears, someone very dear to Kendall's heart. Kendall knows that Nico - her closest neighbor, lifelong best friend and (sort of) boyfriend - would never run away without saying something to her. He'd never run away at all. Now Kendall's OCD is threatening to run out of control. Mired in a swamp of fear, anxiety, guilt and depression, Kendall almost doesn't notice when the messages start appearing on the desk - the desk that was Nico's, and before that, Tiffany's. Then the voices start, calling to her, begging her to save them - to save him. Kendall fears she might be slipping into insanity, but her mind won't let it rest. What if she isn't crazy at all?

One of the things I admire about Lisa McMann, and love about her books, is how she manages to say so much using a minimum of words. Like the fabulous books of her previous trilogy (Wake, Fade and Gone), Cryer's Cross is a fast read, but an intense experience. The prose is spare, but each word is packed with meaning. As a measure of just how engrossing that prose is, I cried when Nico disappeared, even though he was physically present for a very small portion of the beginning of the book. I felt the sharpness of Kendall's loss, her grief and confusion, as if it were my own and that's entirely due to the emotional weight of the words Ms. McMann chooses. From the moment I picked this book up and started reading, I was virtually unable to set it down until I finished.

I loved the character of Kendall, loved how her OCD is something that she deals with, but not something that cripples her. Ms. McMann has personal experience of a child with OCD and it shows in how she presents Kendall. Her 'condition' is as much a part of her as the color of her hair or her skill with a soccer ball. It's not a handicap, although it can sometimes make things difficult for her, it's merely a part of who she is.

Cryer's Cross is, in many ways, the modern equivalent of a gothic horror novel. It's dark and moody, brooding and intense. The tension that comes from the presence of evil, from a native sense of wrongness, invades the narrative subtly at first, but grows with each successive chapter. Truly a creepy - and wonderful - novel.

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