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Bad Cree: A Novel (Hardcover)
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January 2023 Indie Next List
“Bad Cree uses the importance of dreams in Cree culture to cover corporate greed, trauma, and familial grief. Johns’ symbolism makes for an ethereal experience, and highlights the strength that can come from sisterhood and motherhood.”
— Stuart McCommon, Novel., Memphis, TN
In this gripping, horror-laced debut, a young Cree woman’s dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community and the land they call home.
"A mystery and a horror story about grief, but one with defiant hope in its beating heart." —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Pallbearers Club
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?
About the Author
JESSICA JOHNS is a Nehiyaw aunty and member of Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. She is an interdisciplinary artist and winner of the 2020 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize.
Featured on CrimeReads’ "Unprecedented Era of Native American Noir” • One of Book Riot's Most Anticipated Horror Novels of 2023 • One of Lit Hub’s "20 New Books To Read Right Now"
"Bad Cree deftly explores the permeable boundaries of dreams, reality, and culture, as well as complex family dynamics and relationships. A compelling novel that is a mystery and a horror story about grief, but one with defiant hope in its beating heart." —Paul Tremblay, author A Head Full of Ghosts and The Pallbearers Club
"Bad Cree is a mesmerizing, enticing read. Jessica Johns writes the world in all its messiness and terror, while simultaneously remembering to center its tender beating heart. A book about family and foundations, but also about how the secrets we keep can knock the floor out from under us. A captivating novel from an exciting new author." —Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things
"Both tactile and dreamy, terrifying and beautiful, Bad Cree will wrap you up and pull you along for the journey -once it starts, there’s no backing out, no pause, no stall. I have been waiting years for Jessica Johns’s books – I say books because there had better be more! She did not disappoint." —Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves
"Bad Cree is a masterwork of creeping tension. Wry, moody and subversive, Johns explores the power of connections, both the harm and the healing, with characters rich and warm, tangled in each other, to the land and to the supernatural. Couldn't put it down." —Eden Robinson, author of the Trickster Trilogy
"In evocative yet understated prose, Jessica Johns weaves a captivating tale of love, loss, the violence of greed and the healing power of family. In Bad Cree, Johns delivers a suspenseful and thought-provoking page turner you won’t want to put down." —Michelle Good, author of Five Little Indians
"With creeps that are ever-creepy and love flowing like beer at a bush party, Bad Cree is a book about the power of dreams, home and family. It reads like a tribute to the ones who came before us Lee Maracle, Jeanette Armstrong, Eden Robinson. This book is tough iskwew in flannel shirts with long unbrushed hair, just looking good. It’s tea rings on Formica tables, cigarette smoke wafting through windows, and an eerie magical realism that only belongs to the bush. Full of Auntie power, Jessica Johns is really coming into her own immense storytelling ways." —Katherena Vermette, author of The Break
"A narrative that is truly chilling and suspenseful. A powerful exploration of generational trauma and an artful, affecting debut.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The novel serves as a window into a world where dreams intersect with waking reality. . .It works equally well as spine-tingling thriller and a touching meditation on grief.” —Publishers Weekly *starred review*
“Johns has crafted a magical debut thriller that is both terrifying but also lovingly written.” —Ms. Magazine
“Johns laces cryptid terror into the sense of loss that her community feels. . . Visceral details will have readers hanging on the edge of every chapter, waiting to see when the wheetigo will strike next. Perfect for fans of Ramona Emerson’s Shutter and Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians—Johns is a writer to watch.” —Booklist *starred review*
[Bad Cree] is. . .a story about grief and family and the lingering effects of the infringement of industrialism on native lands. . .When the book ends, what readers will remember most are the moments these characters shared together, playing cards and talking late into the night.” —Library Journal
“This gripping horror debut. . . is a satisfying slow burn that explores loss, generational trauma, and violence through a narrative that is chilling yet, at its center, burning with a defiant resilience.” –Electric Lit
“Johns utilizes horror tropes to work out the ramifications of generational trauma to perfect effect. . . a chilling narrative that’s about spirits and ghosts, but also about healing.” —BookRiot
“Johns. . .ties Cree beliefs about dreams and deep-rooted indigenous lore to how women in a family rally around one another to battle grief.” —The Washington Post
"Bad Cree is an engaging read with well-drawn characters." —New York Journal of Books