Fifteen-year-old Wayne Pumphrey wishes he were courageous enough to actually send the heartfelt letters he writes to friends and family. He also wishes his father would drive on the right side of the street, his mother would stop packing her suitcase to leave, and his sister would stop listening to Nickelback. But most of all, he wishes that Pete “The Meat” would let him walk to school in peace. After all, how many times can one person eat yellow snow?
Then one morning, while facing Pete and his posse, Wayne is rescued by Marjorie, the girl with a dead father and a mother who might as well be. Together, the two of them escape Pete’s relentless bullying by rehearsing for the school play, and an unlikely friendship is formed. As they grow ever closer to one another, they begin to dream of escape from their small town and restricted lives. But Pete now has plans for both of them—and after a moment of sudden violence, nothing will ever be the same again for Wayne, Marjorie, or Pete himself.
Creeps is told through two distinct narrative styles: unsent, heartfelt letters that Wayne Pumphrey writes to individuals (and sometimes locations), and third person narration. While it was nice to see an unbiased view of the situations through the third person narrative, those scenes paled in comparison to the letters.
I wasn’t fond of any of the characters in this book. I identified with Wayne’s inability to know why he was being targeted by bullies, but it was hard to reconcile the Wayne that we saw through the third person narration with the Wayne that we saw through the letters. I understand that we often act differently when we’re alone than we do when we’re with others, but Wayne’s characterization (and maturity level) seemed to change dramatically depending on which narrative style was being used. His relationship with Marjorie felt more like a relationship of convenience than a genuine friendship, which made certain scenes feel awkward instead of sweet.
The supporting characters all seemed to be cardboard cutouts of specific stereotypes: the alcoholic, the shopaholic, the “dumb jocks,” etc. They never attained any real depth, making it hard to sympathize with any of them. A few of the plot points pertaining to these characters, such as Wayne’s father’s drinking problem, were only mentioned a few times and then completely abandoned or forgotten, making me wonder why they were there in the first place.
I enjoyed the fact that this book is set in Canada, though some of the references made me cringe. Like Nickelback. (None of the Canadians I know like those guys, as bad as that sounds). Many of the references are likely going to be outdated fairly quickly and seemed to only be there to make the book “relevant.” Some of the language and slang was just… strange. I live in Ontario, which is a different part of Canada from where Creeps is set, but I’ve never heard “Jesus” used as an adjective. It might be an Atlantic Canada thing, but it made the dialogue sound awkward and unnatural at times.
The bullying itself was handled realistically in some cases, especially when it came to the parental responses and the reactions of other students. There were times when the bullying escalated out of nowhere from juvenile to truly horrific, and I felt really uncomfortable reading some scenes. The only portion of the bullying that I truly “enjoyed” (or, at least, could get on board with) was Marjorie’s response to being called a slut: that it’s her body, and she can do whatever she wants with it.
Overall, Creeps is a realistic story about bullying and how it affects those that are involved in it (the bully, the victim, and the witnesses). Unfortunately, its message wasn’t as strong as it could have been due to a combination of unlikeable characters, inconsistent characterization, and abandoned plot points.