Not Another ‘It’ Knockoff


Source: HarperTeen

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare (Hardcover, 352 pages)

Mollie Hervey, Guest Contributor

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare is a horror novel released in 2020. This book marks Cesare’s first young adult novel. While it is mostly targeted at modern audiences, readers who enjoyed the slasher films and novels in the 80s and 90s will find nostalgia between the books’ pages. HarperCollins published it on August 25, 2020, and it can be found at $16.07 for hardcover.

The characters that the book focuses on are Quinn Maybrook and Cole Hill. Quinn and her father just moved to Kettle Springs, Missouri, to get a fresh start on life. The town appears sleepy at a glance, but there are always two sides to a coin. On one side, the teens of the town wreak havoc with their partying antics. On the other, the adults of the town have gotten fed up with the chaotic behavior of their offspring. They want Kettle Springs to be what it’s always been–sleepy, but safe. Eventually, the kids’ horseplay becomes too much for the other residents, including the mascot of the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory, Frendo the Clown.

“Quinn watched, her lockjaw going slack, as a clown emerged from the corn.”

The beginning of the book’s plot is quite clear. There are no unnecessary details and most if not all details used are some form of foreshadowing for the story later on or for character development. The plot has a clear turning point and climax as well as a satisfying yet suspenseful resolution. The characters and plot are set in the modern-day, which makes the story seem even more realistic. While the concept is a little cliche, the twists and turns made by the author are original and unpredictable. The idea of a killer clown is a little fantastical, but not too fictional-sounding.

“Cole Hill watched from the edge of the barn as the killer in the clown mask took aim at Janet and fired.”

Much of the plot is believable, though the events are a little far-fetched. However, the drive behind many of the characters’ decisions amid these events and their decisions leading to other events are logical. Quinn is well-developed and her relationships with other characters, such as her father, are natural and comfortable. The setting of the book is cliche, as the town is isolated and makes it less relatable for other readers who don’t live in very small towns. The stylistic choices of the novel showcased the two-sidedness of both the characters and the town.

“On one side there were yellowed newspaper clippings about giant pumpkin pies made from giant blue-ribbon-winning pumpkins, little old ladies wearing kitty sweaters they’d knit themselves, and over that delicate small town, the huge, aged sheriff protecting law and order. On the other side–in what seemed like a different dimension–there were kids with their iPhones, taking in the world through electric eyes a gigabyte at a time”

Cesare made a good decision when he decided to switch perspectives from the teens’ perspectives and the adults’ perspectives. He also achieved this through the characterization of Ronnie and Matt, a teenage couple who showed their two-faced nature when the murders of the kids started to increase. The diction used in the novel is common, though there is a fair amount of profanity used. The usage of explicit language is not uncomfortable, but the book could exist without it. The overarching theme of the story has to do with the separation of generations and their values. One side of the town is stuck in the past with the other pushing forward into the future. Many things kids today value and believe are quite different from what their parents believe. This causes the youngest generation to get a bad rap. However, time continues to push forward, and this novel demonstrates that one can either continue forward or get stuck in time.

Clown in a Cornfield appeared to be the most cliche story I’d ever heard. I assumed it would be an It knockoff. I mean, A killer clown? Seriously? I easily guessed the setting: a small town with a lot of corn. With that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The story kept me on the edge of my seat and I didn’t get bored with it even once. The pacing of the novel was excellent and the main character was relatable. The story was not so out-of-this-world that it couldn’t possibly happen. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages.