Bad Cree by Jessica Johns
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Hardcover. 272 pages.
About Bad Cree:
"When Mackenzie wakes up with a severed crow's head in her hands, she panics. Only moments earlier she had been fending off masses of birds in a snow-covered forest. In bed, when she blinks, the head disappears.
Night after night, Mackenzie's dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina's untimely death: a weekend at the family's lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt. But when the waking world starts closing in, too--a murder of crows stalks her every move around the city, she wakes up from a dream of drowning throwing up water, and gets threatening text messages from someone claiming to be Sabrina--Mackenzie knows this is more than she can handle alone.
Traveling north to her rural hometown in Alberta, she finds her family still steeped in the same grief that she ran away to Vancouver to escape. They welcome her back, but their shaky reunion only seems to intensify her dreams--and make them more dangerous.
What really happened that night at the lake, and what did it have to do with Sabrina's death? Only a bad Cree would put their family at risk, but what if whatever has been calling Mackenzie home was already inside?"
Bad Cree is an incredible new addition to the supernatural horror genre. I have been so excited to see so much more indigenous horror being published lately as well, and Bad Cree is an excellent new addition there as well. Bad Cree follows protagonist Mackenzie as she begins to experience intense dreams where things in those dreams... don't always stay in the dreams.
This story opens up in one of Mackenzie's dreams where she happening to be dealing with some unruly crows. When she finally manages to wake up from her dream, she does so with a severed crow's head somehow in her hands. The weird part is that this isn't the first time something like this has happened to Mackenzie, and it isn't going to be the last. The story then continues to follow Mackenzie as she starts trying to figure out what these dreams mean. She finally decides it's time to ask her family and decides to travel back home fro the first time since her sister died a year ago, something she'd been putting off as long as she can.
The author mentions in a brief introduction that she was told by a professor that no one wants to read about dreams in books, and since dreams are such a big part of her culture she felt that was simply wrong and dismissive of her culture, and she decided to write a book almost entirely centered on dreams to prove them wrong–and I'd say she was very successful in doing that! I'll admit, I don't always love dream sequences in books either, but that's probably because they weren't done nearly as well as they were in Bad Cree, nor were they as critical to the plot as they are in this book. Jessica Johns wove the dreams effortlessly into this narrative and made them utterly riveting and critical to the plot.
Bad Cree is a very character-driven and family relationship-driven story, though it certainly has some strong supernatural horror elements interwoven as well. This is very much a story about Mackenzie learning to come to terms with her sister's death and how it has not only affected her own life, but also her other sister's life and the rest of her family. Mackenzie seemingly did whatever she could to move away from her hometown in order to distance herself and start her own life, and this book really forces her to confront that choice and also confront her family after so much history has happened.
I really loved the family dynamics at play at this book and getting to see our protagonist go back to her hometown to reconnect with and make amends with her family, all while they learn to band together to deal with whatever is plaguing her. I felt a deep sense of family, community, and female connection in this story between all of the women family members, and I think the author did an incredible job creating that.
As for the supernatural/horror elements of Bad Cree, I felt that Johns created a strong atmosphere that was full of tension, unease, and tons of uncertainty. There's a very general overall eerie vibe in this story due to the weird dreams that start to have potentially dangerous consequences, the cultural stories that play into things, and the general sense of the unknown that's at play. I was excited by how spooky this story was and how Johns used the spookiness to tell both an entertaining story full of creepy moments and a story full of emotional depth and family elements. If you're looking for something that ties all of that together in a really cohesive way, and if you'd like to check out and support more of the awesome indigenous fiction that's been getting published lately, then Bad Cree is what you're looking for!
Overall, I've given Bad Cree four stars!
*I received a copy of Bad Cree courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*