Many of us, at one time or another, have wished we could be someone else: someone cooler, smarter, better looking, more popular, whatever. But would we be crazy enough — or, as some people might say, brave enough — to just walk away from everything we know and reinvent ourselves?
After high school junior Christopher Creed disappears, leaving only a cryptic note, the community is left to wonder if he ran away, killed himself or was murdered. Everyone has their own version of what happened. Classmates who saw Chris as an obnoxious weirdo and a target for bullies had no trouble believing he committed suicide even though no body had been found. His parents, certain Chris had been happy and and would never hurt himself or run away, began looking for someone to blame. His neighbor Ali, who saw things from her bedroom window that others didn’t know, wasn’t sure if Chris was dead or alive but was convinced his parents had played a part.
The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci explores not just a teen’s mysterious disappearance but also how one event can ricochet throughout a community. It highlights how gossip, rumors and a belief in reputation over fact can have dangerous consequences. The main character, Torey Adams, is one of the students who paid little attention to Chris Creed — except for the time he punched Chris for touching his guitar (seems most of the boys in Chris’ class have their own memory of punching him). But after Chris disappears, Torey starts to feel guilty about the careless rumors and insensitive jokes of his friends and their parents. With the help of Ali and Bo, a kid from the “wrong side” of town whose police record makes him a suspect in Chris’ disappearance, Torey begins tracking down clues in hopes of solving the mystery. As the belief that Chris may have run away to create a new identity takes hold in Torey’s mind, he comes to the realization that everyone, no matter their reputation or differences, deserves some compassion. The climax in an Indian burial ground is as surprising as it is terrifying, but still leaves more questions than answers.
I recommend this book to mystery lovers, who will enjoy putting the pieces together as they are revealed bit by bit in flashbacks. But I also think all readers can relate to the gossip mill that is high school, and the pressures from parents and peers on teens that don’t fit in. The book is 276 pages long but not a difficult read.