REVIEW: What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles
Dear Ms. Giles:
This is a Young Adult book and I know that some YA books are marketed to 12 years or older, but I would only deem it appropriate for kids aged 15 or older because of the dark overtones. This book’s centerpiece is the suicide of David Kyle. One night, after a negative encounter at school, David Kyle hangs himself from his tree in his front yard. He pins to his chest the following note:
Words are teeth. And they eat me alive.
This one act drives Kyle Kirby to an act of psychotic desperation and transforms the life of another teenager, Cass McBride. The tale is told in the first person through three different lenses: Kyle Kirby, Cass McBride, and short riffs by an investigating detective.
The theme of the book is the power of words. Kyle, David, and Cass have all been damaged by the words of their parents. Kyle and David’s mother has always been unsatisfied with her life and views her children as the opportunity to have success that she missed out on. Cass McBride lives with her father, the ultimate sales man, and has cut her mother totally off. She realizes, as children do, the love of one parent is conditional. She had to stay with her father in order to preserve their relationship. It’s bitter irony that the mother’s unconditional love is used against her. When Kyle kidnaps and then buries Cass alive, allowing her the ability to speak, you wonder whether Cass will be able to use her power of words to achieve survival.
The story, despite its brevity, shows that a child is so dependent upon the love and affection of their parents; that their psyches are so fragile. The nightmare that Kyle, David and Cass suffer is one seeded by their parents and nurtured by their parents. Did teenagers have responsibility for their actions? At some point, yes, of course, they did, but you come away with the feeling that tragedy was inevitable.
I always think the greatest horror story is the one that is real. Freddy and Jason are macabre, but because they are caricatures, those stories lack sustained fear factor. A story featuring a seemingly normal individual serially killing women and harvesting their skin is a tale that will chill you for weeks. This is that type of story. It is a fear inducing, eye opening horror tale that will choke a reader because of its realness, its absolute ability to occur in everyday life. The ending was brilliant. It was incomplete in way that absolutely fit the story. There could be no tidy believable ending for these characters. A.