Cryer’s Cross (by Lisa McMann)

30 07 2012

The cat has been dead wrong before, judging an author by just one title, but if Lisa McMann’s writing style and plotting in Cryer’s Cross is anything to go by, I don’t think I’ll bother reading any of her other stuff.

Cryer’s Cross has a killer opening sentence (“Everything changes when Tiffany Quinn disappears.”) setting the scene for what should be an intriguing mystery novel in the small rural town of Cryer’s Cross (the cat loves small town mysteries!). Kendall is 17, suffers from OCD, loves soccer and her small town environment, though she also dreams of a career in dance and has applied to Juilliard in New York. Of these 4 elements (the OCD, the soccer, the small town and the dance career), only 2 are maybe vaguely credibly worked out (the soccer and the small town) while the other two are mere plot devices to keep the reader guessing up until they might be of use to the author again, talk about pulling the rabbit out of the proverbial hat… I’m not a psychiatrist, but I do know a little bit about being obsessive, and if you claim that someone has OCD, then this is something that wholly absorbs that person. It is not something you just state (it is mentioned over and over again without us actually experiencing much of it – show us, McMann, don’t tell us!) and then seemingly forget about until it is convenient as a plot device (and even then just say something like “her OCD saved her”).

So anyway, the story is set up as a mystery, but is then interrupted through the introduction of two new characters in town,  Jacian and his sister Marlena. Obviously, Jacian is set up as a potential perp as well as a new love interest for Kendall (sigh), even though she thinks he is creepy – she can sense these things, yo, courtesy of her OCD? Kendall though has been seeing her best friend Nico since before they could walk and talk, yet refuses to call him her boyfriend. Ooh boy. Then of course, Nico goes missing too and Kendall is all: “what will I do without my Nico”? (Don’t worry Kendall, I’m sure Jacian will be there right beside you!) Enter the crazy desk and the voices and the whispers and you get yourselves a ‘supernatural thriller’ that is actually not scary at all.

Anyway, it’s not so much the plot that didn’t work for the cat… OK, so it didn’t work because McMann abandoned the mystery in favor of the potential romance (which totally fell flat because guess what: no chemistry between these two characters whatsoever) up until the last 30 or so pages when the mystery was rediscovered (in the most cliché way possible), much like Kendall’s OCD. Anyhow, even more than the lack of credible plot was the way this story is told: 3rd person present tense narration. There’s definitely a reason why it’s hardly ever used – it feels peculiar to the point of amateurish! I know it should give everything a creepy sense of immediacy and “it’s all happening now all over again” and all that, but it just doesn’t work for me, not in combination with the lackluster plot in any case. Present tense is OK (cf. Hunger Games, Divergent), but I guess it is the combination with that third person singular which gives it an unnatural feel. Urgent  immediacy (present tense) and distance from the main character (3rd rather than 1st person singular) just don’t mesh well.

Oh well, the cat gave it a shot, right?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: