- Paperback: 362 pages
- Publisher: RiverBrook Books (July 24, 2016)
What if the secret to being charismatic were actually a gene you could inherit, and pass along to your children. What if this “X-factor” could make you a star? Welcome to the world of Cease de Menich, a sixteen-year-old actress in New York City who gets cast as Joan-of-Arc in a reality-drama, only to discover her “acting gift” has been passed down through her bloodline for almost six-hundred-years. Cease finds the plot of the drama reveals dark secrets from her past–an abusive mother, a brother who committed suicide–and the reader must decide if she’s a reliable narrator or a terrified girl who’s succumb to the pressure of fame and the abuse of her past.
Cease & Desist is a dark, contemporary YA thriller with a supernatural twist. Readers of books like I Let You Go and The Girl on the Train will enjoy this coming-of-age story, which struggles with the realities of sexuality, violence as entertainment, and mental illness. Cease & Desist has excellent crossover potential into the adult marketplace.
Buy, read, & discuss Cease & Desist
Stephen David Hurley teaches and coaches at independent middle schools in San Francisco. He writes about fiction, faith and young people.
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As a book-blogger, about seventy-five percent of the titles I review come from a publicists and book tour coordinators. Another fifteen percent come from my own purchases, or contests (“enter to win five beach books” and things of that ilk) and the remaining ten percent come from authors who have landed on my site for one reason or another, and contacted me directly.
Stephen David Hurley is one of the latter. He originally approached me about reviewing his YA novel Cease & Desist last summer, and while I was a little trepidatious when he mentioned that he writes about faith (see the line in his brief bio, above), I was hooked on his high-concept story – teenagers in a reality drama about historical figures.
Trustingly, Stephen sent me a Word doc – a WORD doc! – of his novel, and because I was curious, even though I was under a thousand deadlines, I started reading it on my phone within seconds of its arrival, and from main character Cecile “Cease” de Menich’s first introduction I was hooked. Here was a character who was smart, snarky, and seemingly successful, all while still being a supremely believable teenager.
I forced myself to set the novel aside, but I kept thinking about it. This is one of the things I love about Hurley’s writing. His characters live in a heightened situation (and I mean, heightened beyond the Hollywood reality-drama setting) but their voices are so clear, so present, so truthful, that they instantly take up residence in your brain, nudging you to come back and read more.
I’m glad I responded to that nudging.
Told in first person, from Cease’s point of view, this novel addresses subjects as varied as truth in performance and in the choice of how and when to embrace our own sexuality. Sex, violence, death – these are all handled with great candor, but in ways that remain true to the characters and world the author has created.
While Cease is the focal character, she is far from the only character. Nina – her aunt and guardian, Brad and Rex (two of the boys who are her castmates) and a myriad of publicists, producers, and other performers populate the pages of Cease & Desist, and while we do not get to experience the same level of intimacy with their thoughts and feelings that we do with Cease, there isn’t a single one of them who doesn’t feel like a real, dimensional person.
What I particularly liked about Cease & Desist was the way real history was worked into the Hollywood story. “This is Hollywood, not history,” is an oft-repeated mantra throughout the story, but for those of us who are reasonably familiar with the actual stories of people like Jeanne d’Arc there are hidden treasures in what is, ultimately, a contemporary story.
I’ve often stated that I feel the Young Adult ‘genre’ is where some of today’s strongest female characters and most provocative stories can be found. Cease & Desist is the perfect proof of that statement. It is absolutely on the more ‘adult’ side of young adult, going to places that are quite edgy, but I think even people my age (46) will find it to be a meaty and fascinating read.
Goes well with a brownie and a cappuccino, because (let’s face it) no one drinks actual milk anymore.