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Book Review: Cry Baby Cry

Cry Baby Cry. Debra R. Borys. Chicago, IL: Red Door Press, June 14, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 256 pages.

Reviewed by Starza Thompson. 

As the fourth novel in Debra Borys’ Street Stories series, Cry Baby Cryis a suspenseful tale of a trio of LGBT women who go missing in central Illinois. Perhaps one of her best stories yet, Cry Baby Cry addresses some hard-to-discuss issues surrounding religion, LGBT youth, prostitution, and homelessness, all within the context of a mystery that series main character Jo Sullivan is trying to solve. 

Sullivan is a reporter for a Chicago newspaper. She receives a call from a transgender prostitute named Avril who recently helped deliver a baby from a homeless youth. The baby happens to be named after Avril’s friend who has been missing for a year, so Jo questions the baby’s mother, Lily. Jo quickly finds out that there are multiple people in the LGBT community missing, and they all have the new mother in common. As Lily’s story unfolds, the reader discovers a tangled mess of prejudice, bigotry, kidnapping, and possibly murder. 

Borys spent 12 years volunteering at various charities and programs that help the homeless, both in Chicago and Seattle. She has a deep passion for writing about homeless youth and what they need to do to survive. 

Cry Baby Cryis very plot-driven, with more people coming up missing at every page turn, violence lurking in every corner, and none of the characters really feeling safe until the end. The book gives the reader a taste of what it’s like to be homeless, with a baby, and with serious and life-threatening danger constantly threatening you and the lives of the people you care about. While the story arc is interesting, the novel lacks character development. 

Borys often writes stereotypes and caricatures rather than real people. Avril, the transgender prostitute, is an extreme stereotype of a drag queen. It felt as if Borys not only had never met anyone in the transgender community but also didn’t do any research about what transgender prostitutes are like outside of how the media portrays them. Furthermore, Avril had the habit of saying, “girl” after most sentences within the first couple of pages of the book, but then dropped that affectation for the rest of the story. Not only was Avril a caricature of a drag queen, but she was also an inconsistent caricature. The same could be said for the religious sect that raped women as a part of their conversion “therapy.” While I don’t doubt that there are religious fanatics who rape women, and transgender people who say “girl” to punctuate their sentences, I encourage Borys to dive a little deeper and try to develop more complete and unique characters. 

With that said, I do appreciate Borys’ ability to write about LGBT characters and make them a focus of her book in a respectful and interesting manner. Her ability to create characters that are LGBT without having that be their only characteristic is refreshing. 

All in all, Cry Baby Cryis a plot-driven suspense novel that tackles tough issues, kidnapping, and possible murder in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested. If you’re looking for a suspenseful thriller that will keep you entertained, Cry Baby Cryis the perfect read.


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