Quinn Maybrook just wants to make it until graduation. She might not make it to morning.
Quinn and her father moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs to find a fresh start. But ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.
Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.
Here’s what I thought:
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(Share the Horror Review) CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD by Adam Cesare (Harper Teen, 2020)
I am definitely new to the world of Young Adult novels. In my mind, I thought that meant “Goosebumps” type books. After reading the latest novel from horror author, Adam Cesare (The Summer Job, Video Night), consider me enlightened.
Let’s face it, teenagers swear, see (or perpetrate) violence, and do plenty of adult things, so of course they should be properly represented in the books targeted at them. And Cesare does not flinch. The dialog is authentic, and well-done. This comes as no surprise to me as I’ve been a fan of his books for a number of years now, and the action and suspense are delivered at top-notch levels, as well.
CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD centers on a small rural town where the kids of today and their love of all things social media and technology are really irritating the aging community. Quinn Maybrook and her father, Glenn (great name, btw), move to the town after Quinn’s mother od’s back home in Philly. Quinn is the new girl and quickly gets mixed up with the loudest kids in town. Cole, the son of the town’s recluse former syrup factory owner, is the rich kid/troublemaker/rebel, and he takes Quinn under his wing.
After a few chapters of setting up the book’s main characters, Cesare introduces us to Frendo the clown, the mascot of the out of business syrup factory. Just reading the name Frendo had me on edge as it triggered memories of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem’s character in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). Knowing Cesare’s love for film, I’d be willing to guess that was intentional.
The story builds to the night of the “big party” and that’s when all the stuff really hits the fan.
Cesare expertly puts Quinn, Cole, and their friends through a night of pure hell. The ending was absolutely satisfying, but you’ll have to read the book to know how it all goes down.
Stepping back, I see a lot of appeal in this book for adults and teens alike. When the Frendo attacks begin, the term “active shooter” is used by one of the characters in the book while a group of party-goers has locked themselves inside a silo for protection. I have kids in junior high and elementary school, and I know in today’s world, this is a serious threat and concern for kids. My kids practice these “lock-down” drills every few months. I know these aspects of the story will certainly speak to both the teens reading the book and their parents (hello!) reading, as well.
CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD also touches on how older people (say, 40 yo and +) are being effected by today’s “me-me-me” youth culture (with all the emphases kids put on social media and YouTube these days), and just how unsettling it is for some. To realize we (the 40+ers) are increasingly growing out of touch with technology and lingo and the way kids interact with each other now compared to say, 20 or 30 years ago, is forcing us to change, as well, and not everybody likes change. We don’t understand it, and when we don’t understand something, we fear it. And in the harshest instances, we try to get rid of it or kill it. Cesare does a fantastic job handling these perspectives within this tale.
This is a Young Adult novel, but it can most certainly be read and eaten up by Cesare’s flock of loyal horror enthusiasts, too. Trust me, folks, you will not be let down.
Seriously, when CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD drops in August, you better go out and grab a copy.
5 stars! All day.
Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. His books include Clown in a Cornfield, Video Night, The Summer Job, and Zero Lives Remaining. He’s an avid fan of horror cinema and runs Project: Black T-Shirt, a YouTube review show where he takes horror films and pairs them with reading suggestions.
Check out his website HERE