Title: The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass
Release date: June 7th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Mystery
Verdict: Two stars.
Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.
Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.
Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.
In the beginning, this book was very solidly creepy and uncomfortable: the kind of book I might have recommended to fans of the TV show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but with a much darker, more disturbing tone. The cult-like dynamic with abusive undertones colors the entire novel, and it is most notable in the beginning as we try to figure out where each child stands. There is no help from their broken doll-like mother, or from anyone else in their too-small town, no matter how clear the signs are that something is obviously not right about this family.
It definitely felt like the cultist attitude of the Cresswells and the shifting roles of the siblings would all lead up to a larger climax, but unfortunately, the plot seemed to spiral sideways about 2/3rds of the way through and never truly recovered. By the time the mysteries were revealed, I felt disillusioned with the main characters and upset at all the holes in the story that remained unexplained. Wass had a interesting idea for this book, and clearly the potential was there, but there simply wasn’t enough to keep it going as the story’s conclusion slowly rolled to a dead end.
Recommended Creepy Mysteries for YA Readers: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig, One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards, and the soon-to-be-released young adult mystery This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston.
What did you think of this book, if you’ve read it? What other YA mystery novels would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below!