Title: Cruel Summer
Published: 1 August 2013 by Indigo
Length: 324 pages
Source: bought and publisher
Other info: You can do a quiz to see which Cruel Summer character you are here. You can read my review of James’ other book, Hollow Pike, here.
Summary : A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…
Review: Leavers’ dance night. Janey Bradshaw commits suicide. One year later. Her old group of friends Ryan, Katie, Alisha, Greg, and Ben, with the addition of Greg’s girlfriend Erin meet for a holiday in Katie’s Spanish villa. Then Roxanne shows up, with claims that Janey was murdered. Then someone else dies, it comes out that someone at that villa is a killer, and soon they’re all caught up in mysteries and secrets of both the present day and the past.
Reason why I read this: I loved Hollow Pike and expected it to be just as good. It didn’t disappoint.
Ryan, I think there may be something wrong with him. He sees everything as part of a TV series that he is the star of. It’s good, a quirky character trait, to start with, but it gets weird when someone dies and he’s still stuck in that mindset. He’s a little annoying, but a really nice, funny guy too. Most of the cast are likeable, and all are intriguing with secrets and exploration and development. I liked Alisha or Katie equally best. They both develop the most, and they’re both strong girls who are awesome. I like the fact we got to know quite a bit about, and get kind of close to, Janey too, considering she's dead.
It plays out very much like a classic teen-slasher film. Everyone fits into classic stereotypes, and it’s self-aware, with genre savvy Ryan and booky girl Katie.
It is written as scenes, each following a certain character. Most of the time it’s Alisha and Ryan, but there’s some flashbacks to fill you in on backstory. Everything gets revealed after hints, and it’s unpredictable, and gripping.
Mostly there’s mystery, and horror regarding the murders and something else that happens that I don’t think I should say, but there’s also bits of romance and coming of age/figuring out who you are.
The mystery is epic. Everyone is a suspect at some point, with motives and the writing turning on them. The amount of twists and turns in this is amazing. I read Cruel Summer in about two hours cover to cover in one sitting, and I have never said “I was not expecting this!” so often.
There is one bit at the end, in which I think a Hamlet reference opportunity was sadly missed. The best bit about the ending is finding out why the killer does what they do and it’s so unexpected but then you think about how it was there all along and it’s clever and you can’t stop thinking about it. And then there’s a big scene which was just. Well. Definitely unexpected, but a fitting ending that I really enjoyed.
Overall: Strength 5 tea to a mystery that pulls you in from the start and doesn’t let you go. Perfect summer reading.