Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer’s Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she’s not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world’s sweetest boyfriend, behind.
But when Cryer’s Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn’t get close to… the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.
Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she’s always loved, Kendall keeps up the search–and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can’t stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried….
If you haven’t read Lisa McMann’s Dream Catcher series, I highly recommend doing so. They’re quick reads, even if the writing is kind of choppy, and the female protagonist, Janie Hannagan, is number one on my list of awesome fictional females. Anyway, as with Westerfeld’s Midnighters trilogy, I fell in love with Lisa McMann’s world and hoped to find more by her. And here it is, in the form of Cryer’s Cross. She doesn’t deviate from the Dream Catcher series in that she still uses the present tense when writing, which is something I hate in fanfic, because those writers never seem to get it quite right. McMann, however, has perfected it since she wrote Wake, and I didn’t find it distracting at all. Two things to cheer for in this book: Kendall is a strong girl with goals, friends, flaws, and a life outside her boyfriend. Jacian is one of the only male protagonists in YA who is neither cruel (see: Patch from Hush, Hush) nor controlling (see: Edward freaking Cullen).
First off, this book is about Kendall Fletcher, a senior in a one-room high school in a small farm town in Montana. She grew up with her best friend, Nico Cruz, and is in a casual relationship with him. They do everything together. Kendall lives to act and dance, in addition to playing soccer. She even applies to Julliard’s dance program. She helps her parents on the farm during summer and harvest season. Kendall, like most teenagers, isn’t entirely happy though. Unlike most teenagers, Kendall has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and it rules her life in a lot of ways.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
The book starts off with a sophomore named Tiffany disappearing. Cryer’s Cross (population 212) searches for her, but they find nothing. School begins and things start to get back to normal. Kendall has rituals she performs before class, like straightening the garbage can and whiteboard markers, fixing the curtains, and aligning all the desks in the room. She notices that Nico’s new desk is the same one Tiffany sat in the year before. The class is shaken up by two new students, Jacian (ah-see-AHN) and Marlena Obregado. (We don’t see their parents until almost 80% through the book, but we see their grandfather, Hector, a lot.) Marlena is friendly, but Jacian is initially aloof and cold.
Nico begins acting strange and distant, and suddenly he disappears as well. The town mobilizes again, but, just like with Tiffany, nothing is found. Kendall is lost and begins to feel numb (not numb in a Bella-Swan-in-New-Moon kind of way, but a legitimate oh-god-my-best-friend-might-be-dead kind of way). She’s numb, but she functions, even laughs and smiles. When Jacian’s sister breaks her leg, and with the disappearance of Nico, the already too small high school soccer team is forced to disband (which, we find out later, ruins a lot of Jacian’s big dreams). Kendall and Jacian mourn the team together, and begin to open up to each other through mutual pain and frustration. Jacian proves to be angry, not cold, and he has a lot of reasons to be angry: torn from his big city high school before senior year, forced to leave his friends and girlfriend behind, unable to prove his worth to the soccer scouts that will no longer be coming to Cryer’s Cross games.
One day, Kendall notices that there is new graffiti on Nico’s desk. She remembers the desk’s connection to Tiffany. Eventually, she touches the graffiti and hears Nico’s voice asking her to save him. I won’t spoil the weirdo mystery, but I will spoil the desk. It’s haunted. Or possessed. Either way, it’s a super weird villain, and eventually Kendall is taken in by it and nearly kills herself to help the voices.
Before this though (and there’s like zero real romance until the epilogue, so there’s that to remember), Kendall and Jacian grow closer. In one of my favorite scenes, Jacian says something mildly annoying, so Kendall smacks his chest. He grabs her hand and says something like, “You don’t have to do that, Kendall. If you want to touch me, just touch me.” Swoooooooon. Touch him, Kendall! Of course, she doesn’t, not until much, much later.
The end of this book is bittersweet. Kendall doesn’t get everything she wants. She is rejected from Julliard, she doesn’t get to play soccer her senior year, and Nico is dead. Yes, he really is. A YA novel that actually killed someone and left them dead! And someone who mattered, at that. I was happy and crying at the same time. Kendall and Jacian do end up together, and they are sweet and lovely and everything I hoped they’d be, but we only get about ten pages of serious Kendall/Jacian.
I recommend this book because Kendall is an awesome character with depth and layers, and so is Jacian. Nico is a character we get to know and care about and it’s pretty devastating for all of us when Kendall finds him dead. This book kept me intrigued and turning the pages. Definitely a “stay up all night to finish” kind of novel!