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The Girl In The Corn Jason Offutt Main

"The Girl in the Corn" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by CamCat Books

the girl in the corn jason offutt poster large

Written by Jason Offutt
2022, 400 pages, Fiction
Released on 11th January 2022

Review:

Jason Offutt’s The Girl in the Corn was one of those novels I went into relatively blind with mild expectations, and within fifty pages realised I was onto something special, devouring all 400-pages over a few very enjoyable evenings. At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking you have stumbled upon a kids fantasy story, as it does feature a fairy, but ditch that idea immediately, as this is both a bleak and incredibly dark horror novel. The novel has many strengths, including a plot which bobs and weaves in unexpected directions into a journey of smoke and mirrors across several decades. This was an outstanding blend of horror, speculative fiction, and apocalyptic fantasy topped with madness with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The action opens in the Missouri cornfields of the Midwest where young Thomas Cavanaugh lives a happy life with his parents. However, one day whilst playing on the edge of the cornfield, he believes he sees a fairy, or at least a tiny person whom he realises might not be especially friendly. He tells his parents, who explain it away as a trick of the light, but this leads to a series of traumatic events which repeatedly plague the boy. The Girl in the Corn is an incredibly wild story and is too complex to explain in a review, but even if it’s 1,000% bonkers, the way in which it is framed makes absolutely perfect sense and is exceptionally fine writing. By point of reference, it is tricky to provide other literary points of reference, with the best I can come up with being Shaun Hamill’s awesome A Cosmology of Monsters (featured in my top ten of 2019), which has a similar captivating level of both otherworldliness and bleakness.

To call this eerie and heart-pounding horror story ‘about a fairy’ does it a major disservice, as that is only a minor part of an incredibly complex plot which spans several decades but is the catalyst which interconnects the action and a gateway to another world and the apocalypse. The story is cleverly framed around the fact that there are certain areas (such as the Missouri cornfields) where the gateways to other worlds are weaker and therefore creatures can cross between the two worlds and the locals know that “When you leave a window open, you never know what may come in.

Neither is The Girl in the Corn a novel about kids. Very early in proceedings, the story jumps to Thomas as a teenager who has been committed to a mental institution (I guess his parents never believed him about the fairy!), where he struggles to overcome problems with dreams and night terrors. Along the way, he meets other recurring characters who become crucial in the major apocalyptical story arc of the novel. It would have been easy to slip into a coming-of-age style story, instead, Offutt takes the story in significantly more creative and daring directions.

Although Thomas Cavanaugh is the main character and is an engaging lead having to deal with much of his internal struggles without help or support, leading to long periods away from his family and having to survive on dead-end jobs, there are some terrific supporting characters which enhance the novel tremendously. In fact, Bobby, one of Thomas’s fellow residents who murdered another teenager, almost walks away with the novel. This very troubled teen, who has his own connections to the fairy world, is a superb creation and one of the finest drawn psychopaths I have come across. He is such an awesomely damaged character, you will probably feel a tad of sympathy for him as events spiral and fate brings all the main characters together to face the ancient evil which uses pain and suffering to grow stronger in our world.

I have been deliberately vague about the plot, as The Girl in the Corn takes its own delicious time in revealing what is going on and there are compelling elements of mystery thrown into the mix, some of which involve Thomas’s uncle Boyd, who is the local sheriff (another great character) and also suspects something weird is going on from the outset. Why do footprints get smaller and eventually disappear? Jason Offutt has great fun dropping hints and clues whilst beautifully shrouding the big picture until just the right moment.

The Girl in the Corn is top-heavy with clever ideas, plot twists, bizarre imagery and refuses to hold back on the violence; at one point a girl scout is clubbed to death and there are scenes of both terrorism and mass murder which feed the evil entity which lurks in the background of the story. Novels as wildly creative as this are relatively rare and it takes fine writing to make a concoction of such diverse parts click into place so naturally and, considering where events kick-off, you will never be able to predict where it ends up.

The Girl in the Corn is one of the first great horror novels of 2022 and if a bigger name in the genre had written it, I guarantee it would be lauded from the rooftops. I urge you to join the very reluctant hero Thomas Cavanaugh, which was another of his many charms, on his very dangerous journey of a lifetime.

Grades:

Overall: fourstars Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
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Buy from Amazon UK.
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Buy from Bookshop.

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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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