While it may feel like it’s not completely original, Mark Tufo’s Callis Rose creates a wickedly intriguing and even cringe-worthy horror story around teenage girls that’s very entertaining.
The best way I can think of describing the story would to be take Stephen King’s Carrie and mix it up with the obnoxious popular girls from Mean Girls.
The story follows Callis Rose, who is a girl with a special ability that she barely understands and has little control over. Her power turns her otherwise happy world upside down and she ends up abandoned to the overtaxed foster care system. The first part of the story follows Callis through the system and we see her go through a series of foster homes that unfortunately give her opportunities to learn more about her abilities. Using her power has a cost, but a part of her also begins to enjoy using the powers against others.
The story quickly advances her through several years and she ends up with a stable but indifferent family just as she’s about to start high school. In spite of everything she’s lost and everything she’s encountered in the foster care system, Callis appears, on the surface at least, to be a pretty normal but poor teenage girl.
On her first day of school she meets two people. One of them will become her favorite person in the whole world, and the other the complete opposite. Kevin, who is a junior varsity quarterback quickly becomes her friend and eventually something more. His cheerleader sister, Mindy, despises Callis and makes it her mission in life to destroy Callis and to prevent the relationship with Kevin from getting serious.
At this point, the story may feel like something you’ve read before, and with the exception of Callis, most of the characters are pretty one dimensional. There’s plenty of teenage angst here. Nice guy quarterback and nice “normal” girl go through the motions of their first dating relationship. Bitchy sister doesn’t approve of the girl her brother is seeing. Popular cheerleaders pick on the poor but pretty new girl.
But, as Mindy escalates things, we begin to see something deeper both in Mindy and in the relationships between Mindy and her two cohorts.
Of course, the story gets more interesting and much, much darker once Callis decides to start fighting back. As things progress, there are a couple of scenes that are very cringe-worthy. By the end, though, the lines are so blurred between Callis and Mindy you’re not sure who to really root for.
Overall, it’s a very entertaining story, and Tufo adds enough new twists to the story, Callis’ powers, and depth to the characters to keep things interesting. I listened to the audiobook and I also enjoyed Sean Runnette’s performance. The story takes place in Colorado, but there are really no elements to the story that are unique to that location. That didn’t really bother me because I could easily imagine the story taking place in DFW or any large city.
This is the second book I’ve listened to by Mark Tufo. Earlier in the year, I picked up Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf. I picked it up because I was on a supernatural kick and was tired of reading books on ghosts and vampires. I hadn’t read a good story about werewolves, so I picked this one up.
it’s a great story as well with a mix of variations on the post-zombie-apocalyptic supernatural world. The main character, Mike Talbot, is a great character and enjoyed the story. I’d recommend that book as well with one caveat. I did not know when I picked the book that it picks up from another series from Mark Tufo. I’d recommend starting with his Zombie Fallout series first before getting to the Lycan Fallout book, if only so you can follow Mike Talbot’s adventures from the beginning.
Anyway, Callis Rose is in a completely different vein from Tufo’s other books, and I think if you liked reading King’s Carrie, you’ll enjoy Callis Rose, too.