The small town of Pickman Flats offers a bright sunny place filled with quaint shopping and wine tasting. But underneath the town’s inviting exterior lies a dark underbelly, a sinister element that lurks in the shadows.
Clare is a devoted vegan who goes to Catholic high school, is fastidious in her manner, and also, well, a serial killer. The Other Clare takes over at the most inopportune of times. She tries to keep her inner beast’s lust for blood at bay, but it’s hard when there are so many creeps around who help to unleash it.
What secret lies hidden beneath Pickman Flats? And who is Clare really?
If you want answers, well, there’s only one way to find out – even if it kills you.
Clare at Sixteen, the first in a series of teen killer thrillers from Snowblind author Don Roff, I believe can be accurately described in one sentence; this book is a whole load of big, dumb fun! I enjoyed my time through this very fast paced dark comedy thriller, which to me feels like a book version of modern teen horror movies like The Babysitter and Happy Death Day. It’s a bit camp, cheesy and feels wholly like a B-movie throwback in all the best ways. I will warn you, if you come into this book expecting an American Psycho type satirical take on American greed, consumerism and the “yuppie” lifestyle of the 1980’s elite but with a modern twist, you will be disappointed. This is very much a switch-your-brain-off and don’t take it too seriously rollercoaster kind of book.
The story follows Clare Bleeker, the eponymous protagonist of this adolescent slasher, as she investigates the seedy underbelly of Pickman Flats, a wine-loving tourist town up in Washington state. Clare is charming, funny and genuinely someone you can get behind and root for. She’s proactive, clever and gorgeous to boot. However, she often describes herself (and when I say often, I mean at every single possible opportunity and also at times when she does not even need to) as a psychopath. She also references her veganism numerous times that it feels like a riff on the cliché that all vegans will at some point talk about their veganism. After the tenth or twentieth reference to her being a psycho, this can become a bit annoying, like she is trying too hard to be one of her murderous idols (again, of whom she often references). But unlike her idols, of which she name drops Bundy and Dahmer, she isn’t a twisted, reprehensible piece of shit human being. I mean, she certainly does commit a murder or two, and she does display a number of the typical traits of a psychopathic person, like difficulty with showing remorse and a disregard towards personal safety, but she also cares for her friend, Julie, and also her grandparents with who she lives with. She also does understand the difference between what is right and wrong and she does hold a semi-formed moral compass. She hates all forms of animal cruelty, doesn’t drink or eat anything with a lot of processed chemicals or sugars, and (if it wasn’t for her murderous side) she would be a model citizen. Unlike Patrick Bateman, who is a narcissistic, selfish, shallow individual, Clare is confident without being arrogant, self-assured and willing to stand up and put herself in danger for what she believes is right. She also doesn’t just kill randomly, or even kill innocent people with a particular motif, instead, she kills bad people who either do bad directly towards her, or she seeks them out
So why does Clare refer to herself as a psycho? Well, she has what she calls “The Other Clare”, which, when she is in danger or in a stressful situation, she will “hulk out” and become violent, often in a way that is out of her control. This “Other Clare” however, is almost just an angry version of herself, as she is usually fully aware of what is happening, and on a few occasions, revels in the violence. By the end of the book, I was left feeling like it was almost her excuse for her to get violent, rather than actually being, say, another personality living in her head. The book gives some brief excursions into Clare’s not all sunshine & roses past, and this is what is used to justify her “Other Clare”. She definitely does have some mental scarring, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like, once all the cards were laid out in front of me, that she was more of a warrior using what she knows works for her, rather than being this psychotic individual.
This book is all from her POV, and in many ways is a character study from Clare’s own words. This, however, means that a lot of the supporting cast are a tad flat. The bad guys are obvious in their motives and easy to hate, her friends and family are all “nice” people, but there isn’t a lot of depth to them. I only mention this as I know some people really like to have three-dimensional characters in what they read. Again, if you’re going into this book knowing you are there for a blast of dark, bloody comedy action, this is easily overlooked. The book is also speedily paced, with short chapters and easy to digest prose.
Overall, I’d say this book is a cross between Dexter and Riverdale, which is apt as this book is already in the works for a movie adaption, with the latter shows Madelaine Petsch attached to play Clare. I think this book has the potential to be turned into a great horror movie akin to the films I mentioned earlier. There are some issues, like a flat supporting cast and some hand-waving explanations for some parts of the book, and be aware that this book doesn’t tackle but does lightly flirt with some dark and heavy topics, such as child pornography and sexual assault, so if these points are things that you couldn’t get on board with, this may not be for you. However, if you are looking for a fast, funny B-movie of a book, then be sure to pick this up!