CLOWN IN A CORNFIELD
HarperTeen Books (US,2020)
Clown in a Cornfield Synopsis
Clown in a Cornfield starts when Quinn Maybrook and her father move from Philadelphia to the little town of Kettle Springs, Missouri. Quinn and her father moved searching a fresh start after the death of her mother. The town has been struggling since the syrup factory closed its doors and its later burning caused by Cole Hill. On her first day at school Quinn gets expelled from biology class for giggling when the teacher loses his temper against Cole and his friends, this leads her to befriend the local group of kids.
Cole and his friends seem to be more interested in their Youtube Channel than in school or the problems of the town. This has caused several problems, like the burning of the factory and Cole’s sister’s death… and will cause many more. The kids plan a party in a barn outside the town, what they don’t know is that Frendo The Clown is attending too.
Bram Stoker Award Winner
HarperTeen published Clown in a Corfield in 2020 and in 2021 won the Bram Stoker Award for Young Fiction Novel. This would be a huge selling claim, but I received the book as a Christmas present some months before the awards. What made me place the book on my wishlist? Clive Barker. Yes, this is a book recommended by Clive Barker, so, there it got my attention. Thanks, Mr. Barker, by the way.
The book is a young adult novel, which means that intent is a young audience. But this doesn’t mean that this is an immature book. The novel is fun to read for adults too, hey I’m thirty-six and adored it. The book is gruesome with gory and savage murders, but Cesare is not morbid, he doesn’t create bloody scenes to recreate their sickness, he creates them because they help the story.
So let’s get started with the different aspects that make this novel so good. From now on this article may contain spoilers.
The Youtube way of life
Social media is a fundamental part of the life of the youngest generations. People under thirty years can’t conceive a world without the internet and social media is the main channel for their communication and is not their fault, nor something wrong. They were born in a world that was moving fast towards digitalization, and by the time they got in their teenage years’ internet was all. Youtube became the ideal space to say and show your daily life and thoughts.
Many people dismiss “YouTubers” as something superficial, dumb, and straightforward boring, they don’t seem to understand what is so appalling in a person telling his/her every day, doing challenges, or reacting to a video. I include, I don’t find the charm on those kinds of videos. Yet, I get that it means a new way to communicate for this generation and that they can find comfort in seeing that they are not alone and the “YouTuber” with millions of followers has the struggles of being a teenager too. Well, this is something that the novel explores so well. The older people in town don’t get why the local group of kids seem so interested in their smartphones and interpret that it is because they are vacuum and selfish.
Young people feel like adults don’t understand them and this unavailability to communicate makes them search on Youtube or social media for people that can understand them and listen to them.
Stephen King has said that there are two kinds of novels, not his original quote but I can’t remember the writer that King attributes this quote. Either a stranger comes into town or a character leaves his place and goes on a journey. Clown in a Cornfield is both in a lot of senses, most of them around Quinn.
Quinn is the stranger that comes into town, along with her father but he is not very important in the story. She is the new kid in school and being the new kid has a lot of meaning, is through her that we as readers find out the story of town while she is discovering it. But she is also the character that goes on a journey. Quinn has to move from Pennsylvania after the death of her mother in the search of a fresh start. The journey is both physical and symbolic, she has to move from her hometown and also has to move from her old life, not only by changing the city but also by adapting to a new reality without her mother, and finally, she has to grow up from teen to young adult.
This is another thing that Cesare gets and does right, the travel, or many travels of Quinn, are very well explored and contribute to a great reading experience.
The Killer Clown
Yes, having a clown as the killer is not original at all, right now all of us can think of at least ten stories in which the killer dresses as a clown, but who cares. Once we get that all Slasher films, books, and stories involve a masked killer the changes in the costume are not important at all.
Frendo the Clown is terrifying, not only when he starts killing people, it is terrifying since the first time that Quinn sees it in a painting, is an ominous presence that can’t mean anything good, nor friendly. Cesare takes a common trope and makes it something great.
The first pro is the killings. Are they gruesome? Yes. Is it morbid to admire killings? Yes too. But let’s not lie, we all watch and read slashers because we want to find glorious killings.
The second pro is Quinn, she is not only a Final Girl, but she is also the new kind of Final Girl. Quinn doesn’t run and hide waiting for somebody to save her, she runs and hides of course, but she fights and chases the killer. She has an active role that makes her a whole-hearted heroine.
The third pro is the more important, at least for me. Clown in a Cornfield contributes to renewing the genre, it is a genuine Neo-Slasher. While it respects and honors the common tropes of the classic slasher, it also renews them, brings new life to the genre by offering something that if not new is modern, and that’s a huge deal.
I find only two cons in the book, they are not important and are no real cons, only some things that I would’ve preferred in another way. The first con is the “Death Mother” trope or plot, which is not something that I like and think that it has been done hundreds of times, but as I said is I am the one that doesn’t like this trope very much. In the book, it works well and Cesare does a good exploration of grief.
The second con is the epilogue. I know that this epilogue serves a purpose, this epilogue works as a door for a sequel, which will happen Adam Cesare has confirmed that there will be Clown in a Cornfield 2. The problem that I have with the epilogue is that it is obvious, you see it coming. I won’t say more to not spoil the ending, but once you read the book you’ll understand that you can guess what happens in the last five pages. I would like the surprise of the announcement of the sequel and find this epilogue as the prologue of the second book, but hey, that’s me.
The book is great, full of great killings, well-paced action and offers a fresh take on the Slasher genre.