Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Cindy: Holy cow, Lisa McMann! I’m glad I can’t experience your dreams if your fiction is any indication of what goes on at night in your head! McMann’s WAKE trilogy is very popular in our high schools, but I can’t wait to booktalk Cryer’s Cross (Simon Pulse 2011) with my eighth graders this fall. I probably could just hold up the fabulous cover and read the opening line:

“Everything changes when Tiffany Quinn disappears.”

It will be so fun, though, to reel them in (and creep them out) with some of the details. Kendall’s junior year of high school ends with Tiffany’s disappearance from Cryer’s Cross, Montana, population 212. The search is fruitless and Kendall’s senior year starts with an empty desk in her one-room high school. She is comforted by the presence of Nico, her best friend forever and sort-of boyfriend, although she doesn’t like to call him that. When Nico disappears, Kendall is devastated and the sheriff enforces a teen curfew and buddy system that pairs Kendall with new guy, Jacián, recently moved to town with his family to help an aging grandfather with his farm.  The search for Nico is unsuccessful and Kendall sleepwalks through the days not caring about much of anything without her best friend.

And then things start to get really weird…Kendall notices a new carving in Nico’s empty desk next to her:

Please

Save me

When she moves to sit at that desk and rests her head on it, she hears Nico’s voice. “Please. Save me.” Kendall realizes that Nico and Tiffany were both sitting at this desk before their disappearances…did Nico hear voices too? And if so, what? Did that factor into his disappearance? Tiffany’s? Cue the spooky music…

I won’t give away any more, but I will share some other elements that I love about this book. Kendall is a soccer player and her poor school struggles as much as they do in a Chris Crutcher novel to assemble a full squad. The practice sessions between Kendall and Jacián make for good sports reading, though. The heat on and off the playing field adds to the tension as Kendall examines her feelings for Jacián balanced with her loyalty for missing Nico.

Kendall has struggled all her life with OCD. She has learned to cope with the idiosyncracies of this disorder: her incessant need to count, to turn the dent in the classroom wastebasket away from her, to align the desks perfectly before other students arrive. Tiffany’s disappearance triggers a new compulsion, to look over her shoulder every thirty seconds, especially when walking around town or on the farm alone. My students are fascinated by characters with OCD and they will appreciate how it plays out in Kendall’s story.

Finally, I appreciate the rural community. The small town, the rigors of farm life, the willingness of neighbors to pitch in and help each other. We get very few farm-life novels, particularly ones with a mystery/horror/supernatural contemporary teen life bent.

This book digs up an idea that you expect from Stephen King’s brain. Lisa McMann, you scare me.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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