I grew up in a Catholic family. Some family members are pretty religious, others are not so much. It was more of a casual thing than something that dictated our lives. What I’m saying is, my family is nothing like the one in The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Waas. In this YA self-proclaimed-thriller, Castella and her five siblings live under the harsh hand of their Father, who receives messages from God and controls their lives accordingly. They live in the woods, they don’t have electricity, they dress like they’re from the 1800’s, and they’re not allowed to interact with people who aren’t part of their immediate family. The Cresswell’s exceed “religious” and move into cult-like territory. Just before Castella turns 18, Father receives a message that it’s time for them all to return to their place beside God in heaven, just as Castella starts to wonder if the outside world is better than the one they’re living in.
I found the storyline of this book really interesting. It’s such a different perspective to read from; I’ve never been super religious nor was I ever forced to be, and Castella’s experience completely exceeds that. Whenever Castella made the decision to disobey her Father’s word and do something for herself, she went through agonizing thought process “Is this a sin? Will God tell Father? Will I still be able to go to heaven if I do this?”. I cannot even imagine living a life like this which is why I’m grateful for books like these, books that give you a new perspectives on the world.
That being said, this wasn’t my favorite book. I enjoyed it, but towards the end I just wanted it to be over which is never the *best* sign. I think there was a disconnect between the storyline, the characters, and the writing. There wasn’t that extra something that pulled all three together to create a great book. For me, I need really strong and distinct and vivid characters to love a book. I talked in a recent YouTube video about how much I love character driven books and how even in books that are more plot driven, I need those strong characters to enjoy the book as a whole. I thought that the characters in The Cresswell Plot fell kind of flat. I think this could be partially due to the writing style, which I found very basic and almost boring. There was nothing special about how she wrote, she used the most basic word and techniques to get the story on the page. In my opinion, there are very few times that this works well, but this wasn’t one of them. I think that the writing style is what didn’t bring the characters to life very well. I had a vague interest in what happened to these kids, but I didn’t feel concerned or worried for them at all. There was also one character whose personality completely changed in a way that made no sense, which made me question Waas’s writing abilities a little bit (not an ex machina, but reminiscent of one).
I also personally wouldn’t call this a thriller, like it says on the Goodreads synopsis. That’s probably, again, due to the disconnect I felt between the writing and the storyline. I think a more talented writer could have made this much more exciting and fast paced, but Waas’s writing just didn’t do that for me. I felt like I was an observer rather than I was immersed in the story. I think Waas did a really good job constructing an interesting and unique storyline because, no, I’ve never read anything like this before, it just wasn’t brought to it’s complete potential due to her lacking writing style (in this particular book; I know that she’s a freelance writer and she’s probably more talented writing for other publications than writing for a YA audience).
Overall, I don’t regret reading this book. I wish I didn’t take so long to read it, but I don’t regret it. It was an interesting story, just not one that I felt particularly connected to. I think that if you already want to read it, you should pick it up and see how it goes for you, but it’s not something I would necessarily recommend.