Thank you NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Synopsis: Castella Cresswell and her five siblings–Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem–know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict word of God, whose messages come directly from their father.
Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.
Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.
The Cresswell Plot is a book that has no supernatural monsters that go bump in the night, yet it’s extremely unsettling nonetheless. First of all, the writing is gorgeous and almost lyrical in its complexity. Eliza Wass does a wonderful job adding layer after layer to this story. While I wouldn’t call this a thriller, the tension kept builds in such a way that I was actually anxious toward the end. This is partly because I wound up getting so emotionally attached to Castley. Growing up in a dysfunctional family myself (although not a cult), I completely related to her coming to terms with what her father is, and her yearning to be free and live a normal life. Add to that her loyalty and love for her brothers and sisters, and she makes for an extremely empathetic teen. In spite of her upbringing she has a strength of character that I really admired. Her siblings have a much more difficult time breaking free from their father’s teachings, but their struggles are explored in a realistic way, you can’t help but feel sympathy for them. I do wish that the reasons for the parents’ religious fanaticism had been explored a little more fully. There’s a part in the book where Castley discovers that once upon a time her parents were regular teens, but this is just touched upon and quickly dropped. I also thought the end was a little abrupt and wrapped things up a too neatly. Overall though, The Cresswell Plot is a twisted and compelling story that takes an insightful and compassionate look into a family dealing with poverty, mental illness, and abuse. Because of these themes as well as the topic of incest being briefly brought up, I would recommend this for older teens. I also think it would be a great selection for book discussion groups. This is the debut novel by Eliza Wass, but I’ve already added her to my list of authors to watch.