By: Jess Lourey
Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.
All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.
One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed—violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild as dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must navigate her way through an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.
My initial impression of this book was that it was going to be a paranormal thriller similar to Stephen King. The synopsis made it sound like aliens were abducting children in the forest for them to come back changed and haunted. As it turns out, the monsters are far worse because they’re child predators and they’re very real.
Unspeakable Things is about trauma, police corruption, and family secrets. The kind of secrets that parents train their children never to talk about with people outside of the family. Since the story feels very real and is likely happening somewhere in the world at this moment, it was a painful and suspenseful read. I felt Cassie’s drive and determination to find the molester in her small town. I felt her sense of self-preservation and desire to protect her family, but most of all I felt her fear. The story has a slow build that we can see coming from a mile away but are powerless to stop. Many kids who have been in abusive and perverse situations like Cassie’s come to an understanding that sometimes children get hurt, irreparably so.
Cassie is a young girl forced to grow up too fast. Her parents ensured she was ostracized from the community due to their predilection for wild sex parties, and she had no friends for support. The only person she could rely on was her sister who became distant and moody about six months prior to the book’s beginning. Her father is an alcoholic predator, and her mother is a spineless, silent parent who refuses to see the truth that’s right in front of her. It’s a dark tale and a hard one to read through even with the quick pacing and short chapter structure.
Unspeakable Things is full of twists and turns as Cassie tries to find out who the culprit is while possessing a child’s mind. Sometimes kids make mistakes, and sometimes true-to-life stories are far worse than a spooky tale told around the campfire.
Overall rating: 4.5