Author: Adam Cesare
Publication Year: 2020
Chapters: 31 (Epilogue included)
Chapters: 31 (Epilogue included)
With hopes of starting fresh after the recent death of her mother, high school senior Quinn Maybrook finds herself moving out of the big city Philadelphia life to settle in Kettle Springs, Missouri with her father after he accepted a job there as the resident doctor. She is quickly taken in by a gang of misfits led by one Cole Hill after their science teacher suddenly goes mental on them on her first day at the town's high school, learning about the growing animosity between the town's youths and elders from this outburst, as well as from a brief incident at a local diner.
When a Founder's Day celebration goes disastrous after a prank gone wrong, however, it seems someone in town thought enough is enough, that these kids are out of control and they need to be taught a lesson they'll never ever forget; dressed as a certain porkpie hat-wearing town mascot Frendo the Clown, the killer stabs, slices and shoots their way through the town's youthful residents and all those who get in the way, which spells nothing but bloodshed and a possible end for Quinn as she'll soon see herself caught in this maniac's madness.
A gutsy take on a young adult horror novel, Clown In A Cornfield holds nothing back in regards to its bodycount horror and social commentary with its talks of small town poverty and generation conflict, before landing itself in an array of vile murders and an admittedly dark twist. The book basically sectioned itself in two halves to achieve this, doing a solid job taking its time to build around the situation of Kettle Springs as a place and community first, with vivid descriptions of crumbling facilities, rural politics and old folks spouting about the good old days when their home is still flourishing. This often trails into the mischievous yet well-intentioned and very informative banters between Quinn's new acquaintances as they bring up a bit of the town's history and hint past troubles that may or may not lead to the carnage later.
It does take a while to get things going, in turn. Varying portions of certain chapters give way into developing the character or characters involved, mostly delving into Quinn's thoughts on her situation as the new girl around town and her attempts to get past her mother's passing. The writing done for these segments shed a good amount of sympathetic light to whoever the chapter's focusing on (some more than the others) but, in typical slasher fashion, once the town's secretive Founder's Day party gets held, the book mostly drops this in-depth look into rural life and teen conflict to eventually shift its gears to a more adrenaline-rushed pace, chaotically running down as much death and mutilation as possible in written format.
Without giving away much, the killings in this second half are linked to a conspirator who wants to weed out what they see as blighted youths to make Kettle Springs "great again". It starts out with your classic masked slasher stalkings and standard set of murders, but it soon breaks down into something more of a survivalist horror thriller as the kill count doubles in digits and teens start dying left and right in what looks like an active shooter scenario perpetrated by a creepy clown, undoubtedly the book's most unforgettable scene. This escalates even further to an unexpected turn that warrants a lot of shotgun-totting and even more bodies piling up, a reveal that, while not overly original (I can name two to three movies that this twist reminds me of), still deserves some merits for how well it was pulled off, putting great care into detailing the attacks and tying these set-pieces into the town's problems, both real and surmised, wonderfully. It all leads to finale that has us reading what I can best describe as a back-to-back villain monologue, a "boss fight" with guns and an epilogue that teases a possible new wave of slashing, a couple of moves that definitely echo the hammier side of slasher horror but still channeling a decent amount of grimness for just how insane and dark it is.
From cover to cover, Clown In A Cornfield is a guaranteed page-turner of a slasher novel that delivers what it promises and more. It has the sensibilities of a 90s horror flick and the carnal homage to bloody 80s bodycounters, topped with new age teen theatrics and a bleak look into small town Americana. Again, for a young adult horror fiction, this is unrelentingly fun in a violent, old school horror way and I couldn't want it in any other way. If you have the chance to grab a copy of this at your local bookstores (or, have it in your eBook collection like moi!), don't you dare hesitate!
Or feel the wrath of a chainsaw-wielding Frendo!
Notable Kill: A shocking crossbow massacre with multiple victims. The sheer chaos of this spree spreads throughout multiple chapters and the vivid details of the kills elevate the brutality of it all.