Clown In a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

It was going to be challenging enough for Quinn Maybrook to adjust to the transition from Philadelphia to Kettle Springs, MO, under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately for Quinn and her father, Kettle Springs isn’t simply another small town in the rural Midwest. Kettle Springs is suffering from a terrible pressure building up just beneath the surface of the seemingly prosaic day-to-day rustic community.
Cesare lets the tension build as we familiarize ourselves with the mostly quaint environment of Kettle Springs. Dedicating the first half of the novel to a character study and framing the narrative as a coming-of-age tale that we anticipate taking a darker turn makes the latter half of the book more potent. The tension gradually builds, punctuated by scenes that guarantee the reader is in for more than just a fish out of water tale long before the party in the cornfield transforms into a nightmare. While I understand that this is ostensibly a young adult novel, it never pulls punches or treats the reader like they won’t be able to handle the visceral one-two punch once the violence kicks off.
At its core, Clown In a Cornfield is a story of intergenerational conflict. We’re forced to face the ever-present conflict between youth and adulthood or tradition and novelty. When we join the story, we’re an ancient god and a charismatic child away from this book going the route of Children of the Corn. Similarly, we’re government sponsorship away from the story turning into Battle Royale.
As the tale evolves from coming-of-age drama into slasher horror and finally into something altogether more ominous, we’re carried along by Cesare’s masterful storytelling.
This is a young adult novel that is far more suited for adult readers than the books in the Harry Potter–and not solely because Rowling is a TERF and a bigot–or The Hunger Games series. Don’t let the YA categorization push you away from a fantastic dark tale for all ages.

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