Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci

Publisher: Graphia

Pages: 276

Series or Stand Alone: for many years it appeared to be stand alone, but a sequel was released this year

Summary: Chris Creed grew up as the class freak—the bullies’ punching bag. After he vanished, the weirdness that had once surrounded him began spreading. And it tore the town apart. Sixteen-year-old Torey Adams’s search for answers opens his eyes to the lies, the pain, and the need to blame someone when tragedy strikes, and his once-safe world comes crashing down around him.

This book and I go way back. Once upon a time, they (meaning the powers that be) created something called One Book New Jersey. One Book New Jersey is the New Jersey Library Association's way of attempting to bring readers together all over the state by having everyone read the same book in the month of May. I just looked it up and apparently it lost funding and has been on hiatus since 2010, but for awhile it was a cool thing that libraries did to promote reading and community. The library's teen book club that I belonged to in high school participated in this starting in 2004. The book chosen that year was The Body of Christopher Creed. I remembered absolutely loving this book back then, but I didn't remember anything else about it. Once I saw that Carol Plum-Ucci had very recently released a sequel to Christopher Creed's original story, I knew I had to read it...which also meant I had to re-read the first novel in order to get the full effect.
The Body of Christopher Creed, ironically, does not really feature the titular character. He's a mere phantom presence, really only recalled or discussed by characters in the story. No one knows whether Creed is dead or simply a runaway--all they know is that he's gone and he left a cryptic note. The protagonist in the story is Torey Adams, a musician on the more popular side of high school, and one of the few people in the town that seems to care at all for Christopher's welfare. Along with Ali McDermott and her "boon" boyfriend Bo Richardson, Torey attempts to uncover the truth about Christopher Creed's disappearance.
The short version? I still love this book. The book isn't a "bullying" book, or a ghost story--it's about the mysteries that exist in a New Jersey small town and how they slowly unravel when people are brave enough to act on their own. There is a creep factor in this story, but not because of anything that goes bump in the night. Not even because of the (SPOILER ALERT) dead body that Torey finds. The creep factor in this book stems from the complete and utter lack of compassion in the town of Steepleton. Everyone assumes that Christopher Creed committed suicide upon hearing of the note he left before disappearing, but no one but the three main characters (plus Torey's mother and Chris's family) even consider it a problem. Some of Torey's friends even make light of the situation, causing him to distance himself from their pathetic influence in the first place. No one cares. I think that is far more chilling than any ghost story I could read. I would say that the most chilling character was Mrs. Creed--she had absolutely no boundaries with her son and was incredibly strict and controlling. She also was entirely willing to pin a murder, the existence of which was entirely unsure, on an innocent boy because of where he came from and a past incident. She was extreme and entirely lacked reason.
The characters in this book were very well done because they seemed to be real people, not mere one dimensional adjectives. They also weren't completely the things are not always what they appear. Torey was a very sensitive teenage boy that went against all of his friends in order to pursue the mystery of Christopher Creed--but it doesn't mean that he didn't punch Chris when they were twelve. Ali McDermott was known for sleeping around in the popular clique--and that's just what she did, until dating Bo. That doesn't mean that she isn't one of the deepest people in Steepleton that actually cared about Chris's disappearance. Bo was supposed to be a "boon" with a mean streak. He turned out to be one of the most caring people in town for those he concerned himself with.
Carol Plum-Ucci's The Body of Christopher Creed is a brilliant mystery about a missing boy, a creepy town, and the people who attempt to discover things previously hidden. It also serves as a great commentary about preconceptions and the inability--or unwillingness--of people to alter these preconceptions once they've been formed. Highly recommended to basically anyone.

Rating: 5 - shelf of favorites status.

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