Who says fictional teenage murder cannot be fun? Not James Dawson. Cruel Summer is a brilliant mix of the adolescent drama in Pretty Little Liars and ridiculous humour combined with crazy violence in Scream. It’s just what you need after a hard day’s work.
For Ryan, our main character and star of the show, life is a movie (or, at least, a teen drama) taking place on a studio set, right up to the point where the chapters are called ‘scenes’. He is currently hanging out at his good friend Katie’s holiday villa in Spain, with a bunch of old school friends that’d fit in one of his films perfectly. Greg’s the Jock and his twin Alisha’s the Bad Girl, while Katie’s the Good Girl. Greg’s girlfriend Erin is the New Girl and their friend Ben is the Geek. Ryan’s certain he knows who would survive this ‘low-budget Spanish bloodbath’, but he’s not quite prepared for what’s about to come…
Cruel Summer is layered with macabre mystery and British wit, full of murder and secrets – you won’t know who to trust. I enjoyed Ryan’s narrative and his internal monologue that constantly imagines life as a script, plus the storyline surrounding Janey – did she really commit suicide or was it murder? – wasn’t easy to guess, which only added to the intrigue. It’s a little bit ridiculous, but on purpose, and more light-hearted than other YA mysteries I’ve read lately, such as Tanya Byrne’s Follow Me Down. Cruel Summer is more like the Scream movies we all watched in the late 1990s or early 2000s – a bit silly, a little less violent, and complete fun to read.
James Dawson’s voice and personality stand out, like this story could not be told by anyone else. I couldn’t help but imagine him reading the book aloud. Its unique mix of British (specifically, Northern English) narrative and psycho plot make it a compelling read. Will it leave you thinking that this could happen to you? No. Will it leave you wanting it to be made into a TV show right now? Absolutely.
Cruel Summer is a seriously fun, beach thriller (who knew they existed?), with a motivation for murder that you’ll never guess.
Published: 1st August 2013