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 is my first Lisa McMann book. I’ve heard good things about her Wake series, and had it on my TBR list for quite a long time, so I was excited when I started hearing buzz about her new stand alone novel.
I have to admit, when I first started reading Cryer’s Cross, I almost immediately stopped. The book is written in a very intense third person, stream of consciousness style. But once I read on through a few more pages, I realized it perfectly complimented the way main character Kendall Fletcher, who suffers from OCD, thinks. Similar to the effect music with pounding bass has on your body, the writing style definitely makes your heart pound faster, and in my opinion, made me read faster! It definitely takes some getting used to, but once I hit my reading stride, I barely noticed.
In the beginning of Cryer’s Cross, Kendall’s world is turned upside down when fellow student Tiffany disappears without a trace from her small town. Kendall is again pushed nearly over the edge when a month or so later, her boyfriend and neighbor Nico also disappears. The chaos left in the wake of both disappearances soon catches up with Kendall, and she begins hearing voices, especially when nearby a certain desk in her classroom. A desk that doesn’t stay where it belongs, in her perfectly OCD organized rows. New student Jacian, who was investigated after TIffany disappeared, slowly transforms from Kendall’s foe and soccer team rival, into a new friend, and one of the few people who believes she isn’t losing it.
It’s hard to say much more without spoiling the mystery, but I’ll say the set up is flawless, and (yay stand alones!) all loose ends are tied up by the end of the novel. Some reviewers have mentioned problems with the seemingly unexplained paranormal aspect of the novel, but if you can manage to suspend disbelief while reading, the story seems realistic enough to happen in any small town in America.
McMann has perfectly captured the life of an emotionally fragile teenager with OCD, and the idiosyncrasies of life in a very small town. The secondary characters are believable, and three-dimensional, even when only appearing on the page for short spans of time. Cryer’s Cross is a haunting and creepy mystery, sharing that eerie atmospheric horror story feeling reminiscent of the best of Stephen King. I stayed up all night reading this book, and finished it in about four hours. By the end, I was definitely freaking out and feeling nervous about being the only person awake in my apartment at 3:30am.
Disclosure: I received a review e-galley of Cryer’s Cross via Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab program.