Friday, July 29, 2016

The Night Screams by Devon McCormack

Running naked through the woods, Cal flees the sadistic man who abducted and tortured him. When he stumbles upon a convenience store, he breaks in to steal food. A young store clerk, Jake, confronts him, and they get into a fight that ends with Cal being knocked unconscious. He wakes in the home of Jake’s Uncle Gary, the owner of the convenience store. Realizing Cal needs help, Gary tries to communicate with him, but despite Cal’s efforts, he can’t bring himself to speak. Instead, he writes down his experiences. Horrified by the perverse cruelty Cal endured, Gary takes him to the police, who track down his tormentor.

Abandoned by his parents before his abduction, Cal doesn’t have anywhere to go, so Gary and his wife eagerly welcome him into their home. He feels fortunate to be with such caring people—something he’s never had before. Despite their help, he still can’t find his voice, and he wonders if he ever will. And Jake certainly isn’t making things any easier. It’s clear he doesn’t want Cal to be part of their family. But the more Cal gets to know him, the more he realizes Jake might be the very person who can heal the deep wounds left by his horrifying past.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

After Cal got caught kissing another boy, his parents kicked him out of the house. Cal thought he was putting himself into a safe situation until he woke up chained to a wall in the dark. When he finally is able to escape his abductor, he is starving and naked. He tries to steal some food but is caught. Instead of being taken to the police, he's taken to the owner’s home. He's traumatized, scared, and unable to speak. Gary and Luce provide him with more love than he's ever known. His attraction to Jake, Gary, and Luce's nephew, is unexpected given the way Jake treats Cal.

I enjoyed the base of the story. I would have like to see more from the abduction and Cal's healing. It seemed glossed over, but otherwise it was a quick enjoyable read.

3.5 Stars.

I need to start this review by stating how I read like an editor, not the average reader. I pick up things I wish I didn't, so read my review knowing it's with a clinical bent.

Devon McCormack is a new-to-me author, and I found the writing style to be a steady flow, engaging and easy to read, with likable characters, but the overall story to be emotionally manipulative.

The opening hooked me from word one, written in an inventive manner that truly engaged the reader, and I thought for sure I'd be handing out an automatic 5 stars. Based on the majority of the content, it was a 5-star read, but I felt the emotional side wasn't fully explored or executed properly.

Without going into great detail over the events, as I don't wish to spoil the read – plus, thankfully the author didn't go into detail either as this was a 17-year-old – some major things happen to the narrator, Cal, but the aftermath isn't truly explored, only popping into the story when it benefits the current scene. Inconsistent.

The Night Screams was an emotional book, but with so many different types of tragedies coming at the reader, it desensitized me to all emotional aspects. Abduction. Escape. Physical violence. Abandonment. Love-hate. Teenage angst and jealousy. Gay Bashing with violence. Religion used against homosexuals. Cancer. Strokes. Heart attacks. Crime. Deaths. Coming out in a small town. Within only 200 pages.

If only a handful of these tropes had been fully explored, I would have been a basket case while reading, truly experiencing all the tumultuous emotions Cal's character would have been showing. But with so much happening on every page, without the characters showing the emotional impact, it just felt like the author was using emotional extortion. I can't hand out 5 stars because of brutal content unless I feel it was executed to maximum impact.

Show me – don't tell me. Make me bleed for the character, not ask what's next.

The characters just moved on, without any aftercare from one event to the next, and I was just waiting for what else could possibly occur, and not out of mystery or anticipation. Maybe Armageddon.

Sometimes less is more. Give the reader time to 'feel' what the character is feeling before slapping them in the face with yet another tragic event. Yes, a character needs to earn that happily ever after, but it just starts to feel manipulative on the author's part after 10 or more tragedies.

I've noticed this trend lately in books, where the author emotionally tortures the characters. Several this week alone. Tossing a bunch of tragedies into a hat and picking 10 to 15 of them doesn't make a poignant read – fully exploring a singular event with a major impact in the aftermath does. Build the character.

I feel so awful saying that – truly I do, as I did enjoy the story and the characters. But maybe this was the book that broke the camel's back for me, and I'm judging too harshly. I never got to 'know' Cal, not really, because it was just one thing after the other, leaving me to play catch-up. As for the romance aspects, I never felt I understood Jake's moods, and wondered if the book would have felt more complete with a dual-narrative with Cal and Jake.

Recommended to adults, as I feel they would appreciate the book better than the intended audience who is the age group of the narrator.

Young adult age-range: 16+ due to content. Younger based on the reader's maturity level. Features abduction, sexual content (fade-to-black), and profanity.

Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.

A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men's presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they're getting into.

Connect with Devon

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Night Screams by Devon McCormack to read and review.

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