The reader is introduced to The Night Screams‘ protagonist as a nameless young man, an escapee from a dark place where he was horrifically abused and tortured, and a thief. It is when this young man desperately attempts to steal food from a small convenience store that he is caught by the owner’s nephew, Jake. Rather than being reported to the police, he is offered food, shelter, and most importantly, safety.
The young man is obviously traumatized by the appalling violations he has endured and is unable to speak, but by writing is able to identify himself as Cal. Cal’s recovery is not an easy one, but with the love and support of Gary and Luce, the couple who take him in, he is able to tell his story and find his voice again.
The main obstacle for Cal is Jake, who despite knowing Cal’s story, is cold, distant and unkind – until the day when Jake pushes Cal against a vending machine and kisses him. Although finds Jake attractive, Cal is confused by this action, presuming Jake has a girlfriend. When Jake admits that he is gay and it is Cal he wants, Cal is forced to overcome his fears and discover whether he is ready to fall in love. Theirs is not a simple romance though as they have to rise above the prejudices of the small town mentality, including Luce’s own religious beliefs, as well as dealing with Cal’s emotional wounds and distress within their own family unit.
Devon McCormack has the flawless ability to switch between writing adult and young adult fiction, whilst maintaining a dark edge to his stories and utterly consuming his reader.
The atmosphere of apprehension that this creates is omnipresent throughout The Night Screams – even up to, and including, the novel’s last chapter – leaving us constantly uneasy, but more appreciative of the moments in which Cal and Jake are happy.
The best thing, for me, is that McCormack is able to maintain this tension without being graphic in his details. Cal actually does not reveal the full details of his capture until much later in the story, but even then the focus is very much on Cal’s emotions, which overwhelm us and yes, I sobbed like a baby on many occasions reading The Night Screams.
I have been a long time fan of McCormack’s and without a doubt, he is a master of characterization. The main characters in The Night Screams are genuinely good people who are dealt a shitty hand in life and perhaps this is why we love them all the more. Cal is a beautiful and gentle soul who has been mistreated and rejected by his parents and community, only then to find himself torn from the security he found to be defiled in the worst possible ways and rescued again to discover love, but not without heartbreak.
In a perverse way, I welcomed the pain and darkness of this story because it revealed so much about these characters and without it, their happy ending would not have seemed so justified.
The Night Screams is my favorite of McCormack’s novels so far and even by using every positive adjective in the dictionary I could not adequately convey my emotions. All I can say is that, in my opinion, The Night Screams is a must read!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.