Book Review: Clown in a Cornfield

As if being the new girl in town isn’t hard enough already!

Two scary subjects are the backbone of this blog. If you’ve been around for a little while, you’ll know how much I love a good exorcism/possession story. What you might not know (because I haven’t finished my History of Clowns post yet) is that I LOVE clowns. They’re funny, they’re scary, they’re a symbol of the vaudeville days of yore. If you also love clowns- and slashers and mysteries and cornfields, all wrapped up in entertaining YA prose- then this is the book for you.

Adam Cesare is no stranger to the horror space. He boasts a long list of shorts and novellas along with several acclaimed horror novels, perhaps most notably 2014’s The Summer Job. Cesare is a Bram Stoker Award winner, graduate of Boston University, and (certainly least notably) my mutual on Twitter. Clown in a Cornfield has been praised by the likes of Clive Barker (yeah, that Clive Barker), Paul Tremblay (!!!!!!!), and Madeleine Roux (author of the Asylum series). And I can see why. This book was such an unsettling and deeply entertaining read that I couldn’t put down.

The novel follows plucky main character Quinn Maybrook as she navigates being the new girl in a small town, new friends (and new enemies), and potential new crushes. Oh, yeah, and a deranged factory mascot named Frendo. Quinn and her father moved to Kettle Springs at an odd time in the town’s strange life. The teens of the town are blamed for everything; vandalism, arson, the death of big-shot Arthur Hill’s daughter. The adults of the town are fighting to keep their beloved traditions in tact; Make Kettle Springs Great Again, if you will. Frendo’s homicidal return from obscurity is just confetti compared to the turmoil that’s already brewing.

Quinn and her newfound clique (think Breakfast Club but with cell phones) are quickly wrapped up in the whirlwind of Frendo’s return. Strange happenings culminate on the night of a major party in the cornfield where the deadly truth is eventually revealed.

We don’t do spoilers on the blog (for the most part) so that’s all you get for now. Except for my trademark vague praise, that is.

And I have a lot of vague praise for this book. It’s a funny and bloody high school slasher- like a movie in a book. It was like reading Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or like a really scary Mean Girls where Pennywise is the new girl in town. Rumor has it (I actually got this information from Wikipedia) Clown in a Cornfield has been optioned onto the silver screen! Someday we’ll have an actual film version of this dope slasher book and, personally, I can’t wait.

The beginning of the book is like every classic horror flick- we watch Quinn and her dad move into their new house. We watch Quinn meet her new clique of friends. Then, slowly, things start to get weird. A clown sighting here, an ominous adults-only town hall meeting there, and suddenly WHAM!: a murder. The pacing was on par with a film experience (in my unprofessional opinion) and, I think, that’s what I appreciated the most. A lot of horror books I’ve read lately really relish in the slow, slow, SLOW build up. A lot of atmosphere, a lot of suspense. Clown in a Cornfield has a different kind of suspense. A special, fast-paced suspense that comes from characters being hunted (like, literally) by a homicidal maniac clown.

And it was scary, sure, but in a really enjoyable way. The gore was… actually kind of surprising. You can get away with some crazy stuff in YA, apparently! But it fit the narrative and really drove home the fear- for Quinn et. al and for the reader.

It wasn’t all just fun and scares, though. There’s an undercurrent of politics between the blossoming friendships and killer clowns. That hostility between teens and adults isn’t just manufactured for good dialogue and tension. It’s a mirror image of what’s going on in the world today. Tradition vs modernity. Town hall meetings vs livestreams. Boomers vs Gen Z. And, most importantly, a homicidal clown vs gun-wielding teens.

All in all, I’ll be recommending Clown in a Cornfield to anyone who asks for a read-in-one-sitting, can’t-put-it-down, bloody-good YA horror book.

I’ll also be waiting for a casting call for extras in the movie. 27 is the new 17, right guys?? … Right guys?

5 stars overall, 3 stars on the scare scale.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.

xo Allison

Spoiler Alert: Frendo Lives! Clown in a Cornfield 2 coming August 23rd!

Buy Adam Cesare’s books here !


Book cover art is used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense.

All other images are certified public domain.

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