Warnings: Animal abuse/sacrifice, insensitive language (schizo, slut, etc.), emotional abuse, “monster” is actually a person with mental illness.
Positive Representation: None. Characters were all white and straight. The portrayals of mental illness were not positive.
Rating: 1/5 stars
This is the second book I’ve read in the last few months that pitches itself as a creepy monster in the woods taking people, only to turn out to be someone suffering from mental illness. Let me tell you straight up: I am damn tired of this trope. The Creeping is a book about Stella who, when she was six years old, vanished into the forest with her best friend Jeanie and only one of them–Stella–came out alive. Jeanie’s body was never found and Stella had no memory of what happened, nor anything else that had happened in her life up to that point.
Ten years later, on the anniversary of Jeanie’s disappearance, Stella is attending a twisted party at a graveyard that is meant to commemorate Jeanie’s mysterious vanishing. It’s just an excuse for teenagers to get wasted while fake child corpses hang in the trees, though. While there a freak storm comes up and washes part of the cemetery into the lake, revealing a fresh body of a child that looks exactly like Jeanie. This rips open the old cold case of what happened to Stella and Jeanie, and Stella becomes determined to recover her lost memories to solve the case. To do this she drags in her old crush–Sam–who she has been abusive to all through High School and convinces him to help. Eventually they discover an old town legend about a monster that haunts the woods and old families in town sacrificing pets over the years to apparently keep the monster happy.
Everything in this book builds up to there being a real monster in the woods. There’s ancient legends, cultish people who believe it, the entire town starts putting protection amulets on their homes, etc. Then, at the last minute, it’s revealed that there’s nothing supernatural what-so-ever, just a couple of mentally ill people who were responsible all along and played up the legend to their own ends.
Now, look, obviously you’re not right in the head if you’re going out and murdering little girls, women, and kidnapping people among other such things. But having so many stories where everyone thinks the crimes are the result of some mysterious monster only for it to be revealed to be the “oh so scary” mentally ill person is honestly offensive. It is a trope that needs to go away.
Then there’s the extreme level of abuse in this book. Stella’s best friend Zoey is an absolutely terrible person but all her actions are framed as cute and quirky and just how she is. She’s constantly berating Stella, putting her down, dragging her places she doesn’t want to go, and is mentioned as having once egged Stella’s car because Stella wanted to stay in and study instead of go to a party. Throughout the book Stella is constantly reaching out to Zoey for help and support only to be hung up on and ignored when Stella needs her most. Then the next day Zoey will come back all apologetic, talking about how it was sort of Stella’s fault Zoey ignored her in the first place. Stella is constantly begging for scraps from Zoey and she rarely gets even that. Zoey also frequently refers to her (and other people) as “slut” and “schizo” and other offensive terms. It would be one thing if this was addressed and treated as the terrible thing it is, but it isn’t. They’re still best friends at the end of the book with zero attention given to how terrible Zoey is to Stella.
There’s also a lot of abuse present in the relationship between Stella and Sam. Sam was friends with Zoe and Stella as children, however when they were twelve Zoey made Stella choose between them. Stella choose Zoey and after that she and Zoey totally cut Sam out, abusing him all through the rest of Middle School and into High School. They’d call him names, put him down around their popular friends, constantly shut him out, etc. Zoey would cut off any attempts Stella made to mend things and throughout the book Zoey continues to do this. Stella repeatedly insults Sam herself throughout the book, even when he’s giving everything he has to help her. She belittles and bullies him but continues to expect his help. This one isn’t addressed either.
Overall the book felt like it was written by someone who hasn’t been in High School in a long time, let alone a small-town High School. The teenagers just didn’t ring true and generally felt flat because teenagers was ALL they were. It felt like reading an amalgamation of all the High School tropes you usually see on TV but almost never see in real life. Between that, the issues with mental illness portrayals, and the abuse this isn’t a book I would really recommend.