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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Book Review: Bad Cree By Jessica Johns

Bad Cree
By Jessica Johns
January 10, 2023
Genre: horror, Native American, folklore
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385548694
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?

Mackenzie begins to have dreams about her sister's death that happened during a weekend at their family’s campsite. But after a dream, she wakes with a crow’s head, a crow she’d torn the head off of in the nightmare. Even more unsettling, crows have been following her when she is out in the city where she lives, settling in trees to wait for her while she's at work or her apartment. One morning she awakens from a nightmare, throwing up water from the lake near her parent’s home in Alberta and receiving threatening texts from her dead sister, Sabrina. She returns home to find the truth.

Bad Cree is an interesting horror novel where the heroine is Cree, a Native American. Cree people believe in interpreting their dreams and dreams are what is terrorizing the young woman. Is what she is experiencing dreams or are they real too? Can her culture enable her to solve the mystery of what really happened to Sabrina and can her family help her? The novel makes a great heart-pounding read where the real and not real and Indigenous symbolism strikes at the heart of it all.

I gave Bad Cree 5 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
Jessica Johns is a nehiyaw aunty with English-Irish ancestry and a member of Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. She is an interdisciplinary artist and award-winning writer whose debut novel, Bad Cree, will be released in January 2023.

Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction has been published in Cosmonauts Avenue, Glass Buffalo, CV2, SAD Magazine, Red Rising Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Bad Nudes, Grain, The Fiddlehead, Canadian Art, C Magazine, Brick, Reissue, Maisonneuve, The Globe and Mail, Best Canadian Essays 2019, among others. She has spoken at various literary and arts festivals such as WORD Vancouver, Vancouver Writers Fest, Room Literary and Arts Festival, FOLD Festival, Victoria Festival of Authors, London’s Literary and Creative Arts Festival, and Blue Metropolis.

Her visual art has been featured at the 2022 Rhubarb Festival, grunt gallery, and at Latitude 53. 

She serves on the editorial board for GUTS – An Anti-Colonial Feminist Magazine, the advisory board for the Indigenous Brilliance reading series, and also brews kombucha as the founder of kok├┤m kombucha.

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