When I need a semi-gritty paranormal mystery for a reluctant reader*, I head to the M section first. Lisa McMann’s books have super-high-interest storylines—girl gets sucked into other peoples’ dreams and uses that ability to fight crime! Girl’s boyfriend goes missing; also, her school desk might be haunted!—her chapters are short, and so are her sentences. In the Wake trilogy and Cryer’s Cross—somehow I missed last year’s Dead to You, so I can’t speak to that one—she writes in the present tense and uses a lot of sentence fragments, both of which amp up the tension to an even higher degree while quickly luring in and engrossing even the most suspicious readers.
She uses the same formula in her newest book, Crash. Sixteen-year-old Jules Demarco is an outcast in her high school: partly because she drives her family’s food truck—which has TWO GINORMOUS MEATBALLS on top of it—to school, and partly because her family is involved in a decades-old feud with the family that owns the OTHER pizza place in town. Her peers all prefer Angotti’s pizza to Demarco’s, though that probably has more to do with golden-boy Sawyer Angotti than with the actual pizza.
And, to be honest, Jules can relate. She’s been in love with Sawyer for years, even though they haven’t really spoken since he ended their friendship in seventh grade.
Now, though, their paths are about to converge: Sawyer is in danger, and Jules is the only one who can help. Well, either that, or she’s succumbing to some form of mental illness...which, considering her family history—her grandfather suffered from depression and her father is a hoarder—is a distinct possibility. She’s been having visions. Over and over again, she sees the same disturbing chain of events play out: an out-of-control snowplow, an explosion, nine body bags. And Sawyer Angotti is in one of them.
There’s never really any doubt about the answer to the is-she-prescient-or-is-she-mentally-ill question, but that’s not where the tension comes from: the tension comes from the star-crossed romance; the family feud; the towering stacks of STUFF that make the Demarco house claustrophobic, embarrassing and downright dangerous; and the question of whether Jules will succeed in averting tragedy...if that’s even a possibility.
Same formula, same quirks, same result: Crash will very definitely appeal to McMann’s fanbase and it isn’t likely to change the minds of those who haven’t enjoyed her previous books. So, if you’ve liked her previous titles, pick it up; if not, pass on it.
Bonus recommendation! If you like your movies offbeat and Scottish (WHO DOESN’T, AMIRITE?), and you’ve never seen the movie Comfort and Joy, give it a try: like Crash, it deals with a long-standing food rivalry (this time between ice cream truck companies), and it’s just all-around wonderful.
*Other librarians, feel free to back me up: this is not an uncommon request.