Cryer’s Cross is a paranormal mystery that takes place in a small rural town. Our protagonist is Kendall, a high school senior who has OCD and commitment issues. She can’t tell her best friend/boyfriend Nico how she feels about him, which she regrets later when he becomes the next victim in a string of disappearing teenagers. And of course, there’s a new kid in town: dark, mysterious, handsome Jacián Obregon, who Kendall inexplicably hates and then even more inexplicably falls for.
I’m going to be upfront here: I didn’t like this book. It has big problems. The first problem is Kendall’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, which clearly only exists as a convenient way for the author to make sure her protagonist notices the weird things that are going on. And it’s totally unnecessary – you don’t need to have OCD to notice that the graffiti carved into your school desk is changing every day. I also really don’t like when authors give their characters a disorder or disability just to make them interesting. Whether we’re talking about OCD or dyslexia or depression, they’re all real disorders that affect peoples’ lives, not character quirks. But if you took away the OCD, Kendall would be a blank canvas. She plays soccer; she works on her parents’ farm; she loves Nico, but in a totally passionless way. She’s so flat, except for when her OCD is making her freak out about something. There was no emotion for me to connect to.
The second problem is a race problem. Jacián moves with his family to tiny Cryer’s Cross, Montana, and is immediately considered a suspect in a girl’s disappearance. Why? Because he’s not white. Even though his grandfather has lived in the town for decades and the other townspeople should surely be willing to trust lovable old Hector’s grandkids. And even after Jacián is officially cleared by the sheriff, Kendall continues to treat him with suspicion and loathing. We’re supposed to believe that it’s paranoia caused by her OCD, but that doesn’t really make sense. Kendall literally has NO REASON to suspect Jacián of anything, besides the fact that he’s one of the only non-white people in town.
Yet despite Kendall’s certainty that Jacián is up to something or involved with the disappearances somehow, she ends up falling for him. Feisty love/hate relationships are hard to sell, and McMann didn’t sell this one to me. Nothing drastic happens to convince Kendall that Jacián is innocent; she just starts hanging out with him for soccer practice and notices his hot body and starts going ga-ga over him. Nico who? And possibly the worst part of this entire romance is this:
Everything inside her body melts.
She is chocolate in his fist.
Chocolate in his fist? What? I don’t know about you, but thinking about melting chocolate in my hand doesn’t exactly bring to mind sexy connotations. It’s sticky and warm and gross. The wording is also strange – the second line implies that Kendall actually fits in his fist. “She is like chocolate in his fist” would have been a little bit better, though I still don’t like the analogy.
As for the mysterious disappearances, well, the explanation is kind of contrived and hastily explained. (Spoilers ahead, be warned.) Kendall doesn’t figure anything out until about the last fifty pages of the book, at which point it’s already been made clear to the reader that there’s something weird about that desk, and that it’s somehow possessing kids and making them kill themselves. It’s frustrating waiting for Kendall to catch up. She almost dies, but miraculously survives due to her OCD distracting her from the thing possessing her (huh?), and then we get an info dump from old Grandpa Hector who has a story about an old boys’ school he went to where students were whipped and many were killed, and their souls were living in the desk seeking revenge. For some reason. I mean, why would the souls go after kids anyways? Who knows, it’s not explained. How come nobody in town had any idea that those boys had been killed, even though there were two dozen of them? Even in a city two dozen missing teenagers would be a story, but in a town of two hundred people? Come on. It just wasn’t a satisfying payout to the story.
I haven’t read any of Lisa McMann’s other books, so I don’t know if this one is any better or worse, but I imagine Twilight fans might like this book. Bleary small town where it rains a lot, boring heroine, hot exotic love interest, but not much of consequence happens. It’s really not my thing.
Cryer’s Cross comes out February 7, 2011. I received an e-galley from Simon & Schuster for review.