Posted on March 9, 2012 | Back to Literature
REVIEWED: The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
Here be spoilers.
There's an old adage about nature abhorring a vacuum. The young adult novel The Body of Christopher Creed proves that human nature abhors one as well, whether it results from a lack of knowledge or a missing person. When such a vacuum occurs, human beings are quick to fill it with suspicion, regret and hatred. This award-winning novel was written by Carol Plum-Ucci and details the days following the sudden and unexplained disappearance of a teenage boy named Christopher Creed.
Christopher was by no means a popular kid. His family life was troubled. His domineering mother ran her household like a boot camp and Christopher was notorious for his own antisocial behavior. To most of the residents of his tiny hometown, he was someone to be avoided.
But all this changes when Christopher sends a cryptic email to the high school principal and then vanishes. For the book's protagonist, Victor "Torey" Adams, Christopher's disappearance engenders a variety of emotions. He is simultaneously empathetic and guilt-ridden for his own past mistreatment of Christopher. Slowly, Torey becomes obsessed with his schoolmate's life and the questions that swirl around his last days... Did Christopher commit suicide? Did he run away from home to escape his oppressive mother? Was he kidnapped? Was he murdered?
Spurred on by strange paranormal experiences, Torey and his friend Ali (who is also Christopher's next door neighbor), begin their own investigation. But the truth is elusive. Everyone in town has their own theory as to what happened. Some even whisper that Christopher's case must be connected to the disappearance of a boy and his father decades earlier. As the days roll by with no sign of the boy, tensions mount and recriminations fly. Christopher's mother openly accuses another teenager of murdering her son. Of course, Mrs. Creed has no proof of her allegations. It's simply enough that the teen in question once bullied Christopher which resulted in a serious but unintentional injury.
As Torey's involvement in the missing person's case deepens, even his closest friends begin to abandon him, wondering aloud if his fascination actually masks some level of culpability. As the book progresses, Torey retraces the last few months of Christopher's life and discovers a kid more complex and sympathetic than he ever imagined. In the end, Torey's obsession with Christopher's life dramatically changes his own.
The Body of Christopher Creed is well-written with an engaging plot and themes relevant to teens. Nearly every high schooler has to deal with gossip-mongering and character assassination at one time or another. The book contains some scenes that could've been easily pulled from today's headlines and the author addresses these topics both intelligently and compassionately. If I have one negative criticism of the book, at times the characterizations of young people and their speech seemed contrived. There are a few passages — especially when Torey interacts with the boy accused of Christopher's murder — where the dialogue strains credibility.
In contrast, I enjoyed the book's somewhat ambiguous ending which underscored the reality of many missing person cases where those left behind have to deal with lingering questions. Carol Plum-Ucci also does a great job of keeping the paranormal elements from becoming too intrusive — a nice change from more recent titles with similar themes where the supernatural elements become downright annoying. In the end, the reader is left to decide whether some larger force was guiding Torey's actions, or if it was just the result of his increasingly frantic mind.
The book has a sequel called Following Christopher Creed which came out in 2011.