cover image Cuckoo


Gretchen Felker-Martin. Nightfire, $18.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-79466-6

In this ambitious and devastating coming-of-age tale, Felker-Martin (Manhunt) digs into the trauma of growing up in a culture that wants queer youth erased and replaced. In 1995, a group of seven teens are abducted and brought to a conversion camp based at a remote ranch, where they face brutal punishment from camp leaders and cruel counselors. As the group unravels the otherworldly horror at the heart of the camp, they must fight for their lives in the desert, hundreds of miles from anywhere. Sixteen years after their escape, those left alive realize that the entity that failed to claim them remains, and they reunite to confront the Cuckoo one last time. Comparisons to Stephen King’s It feel inevitable, owing to the story structure and themes of childhood trauma and the camaraderie of the marginalized, but Felker-Martin surpasses her influences to create something fresh, brutal, and utterly singular. No punches are pulled, either in terms of violence or emotional impact, and the ending offers no pat answers, trusting readers to draw their own conclusions. Laying bare grief, terror, and the tenderness that makes it all matter, this is horror at its best. (June)