Review: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

cover of Clown in a Cornfield by Adam CesareClown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
HarperTeen (August 25, 2020)

352 pages; $17.99 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

The setting for Clown in a Cornfield is the fictional town of Kettle Springs, a rural town that sounds like good ol’ Nowheresville, USA. The townspeople seem caught in a time-warp where young people are to be seen and not heard, especially while the grown-ups are trying hard to “Make Kettle Springs Great Again.” Unfortunately for our protagonist, Quinn Maybrook, her father took a job in Kettle Springs and Quinn has no choice but to adjust to her new scene.

Adam Cesare is no stranger to horror tropes. He has a popular YouTube channel where he reviews and discusses horror movies and horror fiction. He’s written several of his own books, each one with their own cinematic flair and intentional nods to familiar tropes but with Cesare’s own twists.

It’s no surprise that Clown in a Cornfield, Cesare’s debut New York publishing novel, already has movie adaptation buzz surrounding it. It’s this reader’s opinion that his stories have always been ready for the big screen. There’s just something about his writing style and his passion for horror movies that translates onto the page.

Clown is no exception and reads like a retro-slasher film but with social commentary relevant to today’s audience. The best of both worlds. Some readers might find the first one hundred pages a bit of a slow burn. I found the set-up to be slightly underwhelming for all its early hype.

In classic slasher fashion where there’s an arresting, violent introduction (think of the babysitter scene in SCREAM or the hit-and-run scene of I Know What You Did Last Summer) Clown opens with a heart-pounding hook. 

However, readers are then led through a meandering journey as Quinn makes new friends and asks them questions about some of the town’s landmarks and historical celebrations. Quinn finally recognizes that there is something seriously different about her new hometown and it becomes her mission to uncover the mystery and expose the truth.

Eventually, the horror engine turns over and it’s off to the races! The second half of the book is non-stop action. The body count rises and Kettle Spring’s streets run red. 

Don’t let this book genre label turn you off from pre-ordering this title. There’s nothing “toned down” or unmentioned about this full-on attack on today’s youth. Other than the protagonist and her friends being teenagers, this is fully capable of providing full-grown scares.

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