The Body of Christopher Creed and Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
When Christopher Creed disappears from Steepleton, the rumors fly. He spent his life being bullied, and his disappearance seems the obvious outcome for a high-school misfit. With only a cryptic email to the school principal to provide clues, the town is awash in rumors. Did Chris run away? Did he commit suicide? Was he murdered?
Torey Adams is a super popular guy. He has an A-list girlfriend, he’s a football player. He’s also mentioned in Christopher’s goodbye email. And thereby becomes a suspect in Christopher’s disappearance. Wishing to set the record straight, Torey becomes involved in his own investigation of Chris’s disappearance. He finds out that some of the best people to depend on in Steepleton are others who are also misfits—Christopher’s neighbor, Ali, who has an (undeserved) reputation as the school slut and her boyfriend, Bo, who is a ‘boon,’ a guy from the boondocks, considered angry white trash.
To help in his search, Torey sets up a website about Christopher’s story. He, Ali, and Bo begin to suspect foul play by Christopher’s own mother, who seems to be mentally unstable. They get involved in breaking and entering Chris’s home in hopes of finding a diary. Torey has a frightening session with a psychic, and he feels that Chris’s body is in the old Indian graveyard behind his house.
I read this novel when it came out about 10 years ago and loved it. It was the first book about bullying that I’d read with a realistic characterization of the bullied boy. Christopher is weird. He is irritating. He says and does entirely inappropriate things. But does that mean it’s OK to berate him, use him as a punching bag? Of course not, but the kids in Steepleton do, and then when he goes missing, they all point the finger at someone else. They are mean, mean, mean—and unwilling to take responsibility for their behavior. Having a few of them learn to do so makes the book a great read. Add to that the suspense with entering the Creed home, the psychic, the graveyard in storming weather. Totally compelling.
What reminded me of this book after more than a decade (read in those pre-blogging days) is that a sequel came out recently, Following Christopher Creed. I had to read it to find out what happened to all the characters, especially Ali, Bo, and Torey.
Well, you know I’m afraid that if I say something is wonderful just to get you to read it, you won’t trust me again if I’m overstating the case. So, the truth: I was disappointed in the sequel, mostly because the pace of the book is really off. It drags quite a bit because it’s repetitive. I think the repetition is the author’s effort to have everything make sense for the reader who never read The Body of Christopher Creed. But it doesn’t work. If you don’t read the first book, you won’t get a good sense of the three characters I mentioned—Ali, Bo, and Torey.
In Following Christopher Creed, a college newspaper reporter, Mike Mavic, comes to Steepleton to write a story about the whole Christopher Creed disappearance. He was bullied himself—in fact, he is almost blinded in a bullying incident and has a service dog to guide him. He’s always been interested in Torey Adams’s website about Creed and follows it for the five years since Creed disappeared.
Mike arrives in town just after reading about the discovery of a body, a possible murder victim, that he read about on the Creed website. He interviews locals and finds the town still much affected by the Creed disappearance, but no one has gotten any nicer. If anything, the teens are the same bullying crowd, seeking weakness in others, with the hope of hurting them.
Mike connects with Christopher’s younger brother, Justin, who has big problems of his own. He’s bipolar and has recently become an addict as he tries to self medicate. In his manic states, he believes that he can use the power of ‘quantum thought’ to draw Christopher back to him. With his wild unpredictability, the vicious town teens, the strange occurrences in the lightning field (where lightning seems to come up out of the ground instead of from the sky), the decomposing body in that field—well, there is a lot to pull the reader through the story.
If you’re like me and want to find out about all those favorites characters from the first book, I do recommend that you read Following Christopher Creed—just speed-read and skip through the repetition. The end is quite a shocker.