The Night Screams

The Night Screams - Devon McCormack Review originally posted at Sinfully.

Cal is 17 when the story starts, but had been kicked out of his home at 15 when his religious, abusive parents found out he was gay. He is homeless until he finds a shelter for gay youth where he can work on his GED and have what was supposed to be a safe place. All that changes when he is abducted from the shelter and spends an unknown amount of time being locked away and tortured. The abuse occurs off page and is only referred to in minor detail, but enough to get the gist of the horrors he went through. His escape is heart pounding and he winds up being caught stealing some snacks from a convenience store by the people who will become his family and saviors, owner Gary, his wife Luce and 18 year old Jake, the clerk who punched him out. The story then follows Cal as he makes a home with them as he goes about moving forward.

I have mixed feelings about this story. The opening scene of Cal’s escape grabbed me and the first chapters pulled me into this story. Based on that and the blurb, I was expecting a story mainly about Cal’s struggles to get over the awful abuse and trauma he’s been through in his short life. Shortly afterwards though, the story shifted gears. Cal finds his voice and the narrative became less about Cal’s recovery and more about Cal and Jake’s love story with the recovery aspect fading to the background.

When I read YA romance I want to feel the unbearable emotion and angst. I felt it with Cal’s initial anger and jealousy over Jake’s friends Mallory and Keith, I felt it with Cal’s yearning to belong and his disbelief that Jake could really love him. As a couple, Cal and Jake are very sweet. This is Cal’s first relationship and things with Jake’s last boyfriend ended badly. Falling in love in a small town isn’t easy and the hate and bigotry is there. Jake is very protective of Cal, as he is with the rest of his family. The love story moved with the fast pace and recklessness of first love that I expect from a YA romance, including the all-consuming love and declarations of forever. I understood both of their need to hang onto the other as so many in their past have betrayed them. One big pet peeve though, I want to see the first “I love you”. I don’t want to be told it happened, I want to experience it.

While I enjoyed the love story, I felt that there was just too much secondary action going on around it. It broke up the flow for me and just when I started to get invested, things wrapped up and moved onto something else. There are health scares, jealous exes, homophobic townspeople, unexpected tragedy and, occasionally, Cal’s recovery issues.

For me, there was almost too light a touch when it came to Cal’s recovery. He goes to therapy once, then blows it off. For someone who’s been through such an ordeal, who was cast out by his family, I never really felt the after-effects hit him all that hard. Again, there was telling when I wanted to be shown. I wanted to see Cal’s struggles and fears, the night screams of the title. He has anxiety about it, the occasional flashbacks and hears that voice in his head, but it seemed to get pushed aside for much of the story.

As a love story and a story of finding family and acceptance I did like it. Luce and Gary are wonderful characters, so big hearted, but not perfect, especially Luce. I appreciated that Jake’s friends give Cal a chance, for the most part. I also enjoyed the bit of a surprise twist towards the end. But overall, I wanted the story to be more focused and I wanted to be more emotionally invested in Cal’s recovery.