Sunday, January 05, 2020
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey
Cassie McDowell is twelve, almost thirteen, growing up in a small Minnesota community. She's become aware that her family life is different from her friends'. She lives on acres of land with her parents and older sister, Sephie. She and her sister have chores, gathering eggs, helping their mother with the garden, while their father is an unemployed artist. There are moments of fun with their father, but Cassie fears his rages, and fears him even more when he's drunk. She's afraid to sleep in her bed, choosing to sleep under it, or in the closet, hiding from his footsteps, although her father never comes too far up the stairs. And, she's grown to fear the parties her parents hold, parties with nudity, drugs, and sex. But, the scariest presence in her life may be the basement where she's forbidden to go.
Despite their lifestyle, there are moments of hope. Cassie's mother is a high school English teacher, and the girls are proud of her. And, Cassie has a crush on the handsomest boy in school, a boy who is kind to her, and even sat with her on the bus once.
But, the atmosphere in that small Minnesota town turns chilling just before school gets out for the summer. A middle-school boy is abducted, and returned. But, he's different when he's back, and Cassie knows he's been hurt, and he's turned wild. And, then another boy is abducted. The town puts a curfew in place for everyone under eighteen. A siren goes off, and kids have to be home by 9 PM. Cassie is aware of the troubles, "The Peeping Tom, Dad's parties, Chester the Molester, the curfew siren - it was gross, but it was our gross." And, then another boy disappears, and doesn't come back.
Lourey's book is beautifully written, with some sentences that are foreboding, and some that are just sad. Before the disappearance, she says, "And we stood there, in that safe pocket of smiles and laughter and summer dreams and yearbook autographs, and it was the last time we'd all three be together again, alive I mean." Or the comment made by one girl Cassie's age when she says "Kids are being taken." She replies, "I'm not going to let them steal my childhood, though."
Stolen childhoods. So many narrators like Cassie have stolen childhoods in coming-of-age stories. They're forced to grow up suddenly as a result of adult actions or tragedies. In Cassie's case, she fears so many people in her life, but she's curious, and wants to know who is responsible for the abductions. Despite her suspicion that it's someone she knows, she's desperate for answers.
Can you handle stolen childhoods, broken dreams, loss? You might be ready for Jess Lourey's Unspeakable Things.
Jess Lourey's website is http://jessicalourey.com/
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey. Thomas & Mercer, 2020. ISBN 9781542008785 (paperback), 299p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.