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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping YA thriller!
One year since they left school and their friend Janey committed suicide after the leavers' ball, Ryan, Alisha, Ben, Katie, and Greg reunite for a summer break in Spain. What should've been a relaxing holiday to reconnect with old friends and put the tragic loss of Janey behind them, quickly turns into a nightmare when an ex-schoolmate shows up claiming that Janey didn't...
Published 14 months ago by Zarina @ Page to Stage reviews

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3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very easy to read, read this book in two days. Didn't see the twist coming. Which is always good. Definitely worth a read. I enjoyed reading it.
Published 11 months ago by Miss K. L. Smith


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping YA thriller!, 8 Aug 2013
By 
Zarina @ Page to Stage reviews (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
One year since they left school and their friend Janey committed suicide after the leavers' ball, Ryan, Alisha, Ben, Katie, and Greg reunite for a summer break in Spain. What should've been a relaxing holiday to reconnect with old friends and put the tragic loss of Janey behind them, quickly turns into a nightmare when an ex-schoolmate shows up claiming that Janey didn't commit suicide but was in actual fact murdered! The group doesn't believe Roxanne at first but when the next day she's found dead in the pool, the former friends quickly turn on one another as they realise one of them is the killer and all of their lives are in danger...

I found 'Cruel Summer' to be a more intricate and grown-up version of the Point Horror novels I devoured in my early teens. It has all the same aspects of the classic book series but the characters are more fleshed out and realistic, and the "whodunnit" wasn't as predictable. In fact, author James Dawson very cleverly gave all the characters motive and opportunity at some point during the story progression, making the reader suspect each one in turn and only moments before the big reveal did I arrive at the correct conclusion. He not only kept the characters but also the reader on their toes throughout.

Another aspect that sets this novel apart from similar themed ones in the YA genre is the interesting voice of Ryan. In alternating chapters we see the story unfold through the eyes of Ryan and Alisha, but it's the former in particular who stands out as a character. Ryan is very theatrical and dramatic and he pretends he is living in a TV-show. To him Janey's death was the cliffhanger of the previous series and now he tries to figure out what would be the logical next step for the storyline to take, befitting a classic television format with stereotypical characters, flashback scenes and taking into consideration commercial breaks and sweeps.

Despite the concept of the novel not being an original one, after all this is not the first time we're reading about a diverse group of teenagers stuck in a remote location with a killer on the loose, the excellent execution made this a worthwhile and gripping summer novel. It is perhaps not the ideal choice to pack for your own holiday to Spain, unless you have nerves of steel, but it is a solid read and makes me keen to check out Dawson's debut, 'Hollow Pike', which was released last year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect summer reading, 28 May 2014
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, 2 Aug 2013
By 
Kirsty at the Overflowing Library (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
A fantastic read from James Dawson and highly recommended. Lots of twists and turns which makes it hard to put down and some brilliant one-liners that made me chuckle to myself like a loon. Certainly a book that needs to be made into a teen horror film pronto.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If you enjoy thrillers and contemporaries, this is required reading., 23 Sep 2014
By 
Mrs. B. S. Kemp "Beth Kemp" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
It’s not often I can use the adjectives ‘nail-biting’ and ‘spine-tingling’ together with ‘witty’ and ‘sharp’, but this novel definitely merits all of these descriptors. Although regularly recoiling in response to the ever-present doom hanging over the characters, I loved being immersed in the world James Dawson created here (as did my 15-year-old).

Cruel Summer is a contemporary UKYA thriller which follows a group of teens a year after finishing school. The previous year, on the night of the prom, one of their friendship group, Janey, died in a fall from a cliff that was ruled suicide – although at least one of her friends is certain it was murder. A year later, the friends all meet up for a holiday in a remote Spanish villa, but when one of their number turns up dead, they all have to accept that they are, in fact, confined in a remote location with a murderer. What a great premise, right? So you can see where the nail-biting and spine-tingling come in. As with his debut, Hollow Pike, James Dawson ramps up the tension with perfect judgement, while periodically allowing us respite, care of his witty observations on contemporary life.

The opening narrator, Ryan, is hilarious and easy to empathise with. He has a habit of imagining his life as a TV show, allowing for some brilliant commentary on the media and the annoying tendencies of real life to not fit neatly into media tropes. Ryan shares the narrative with Alisha, trying to recover from her ‘party girl’ past. The rest of the gang are also well-crafted as characters and genuinely interesting as people, and it is a mark of Dawson’s genius plotting that I suspected pretty much each and every one of them of murder at some point…

The setting, as with all good thrillers, is crucial and contributes to the fear factor. Although luxurious and initially associated only with fun and relaxation, its remoteness rapidly becomes threatening. Might I suggest a new genre of ‘glamorous gothic’? The confinement, danger and many other critical gothic elements are present and correct, but there is no dusty old castle or broken down cottage – just a bright and shiny holiday villa.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant murder mystery that is impossible to put down!, 27 Sep 2013
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
Wow! Cruel Summer was a great read. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of murder mysteries, but I hadn't read one in a while. So when picked Cruel Summer up, I was very excited, as you would be. And I was blown away. Not only was the story so brilliantly thought out, it was brilliantly told too. I am now a huge fan of James Dawson and will definitely be reading his other novels.

I want to start off by talking about the wonderful plot. I started Cruel Summer thinking it would be a typical murder mystery, nothing special. But I was wrong! It turned out to be a story full of jealousy, lust, love, and revenge. I really had no idea who did it until the very end. What a reveal that was! It was such a shocker. Those final scenes were thrilling and had me sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, praying for the characters. I loved the ending, but I would have like it to be slightly longer because I do like mysteries to be wrapped up nice and tight.

"Against the white cliffs, the girl in the red dress was as vivid as a drop of blood. Even by moonlight, the rugged shoreline was visible for miles at sea: two vast ave mouths yawned, black stains scarring the chalk. The tide was coming in, advancing on a dark, rocky beach; the surf sighed over the shingle as the waves crept closer."

The story is told in the style of a TV show. Instead of chapters, there being 'scenes'. It was an interesting concept, but I'm not sure if I liked it. I think I wounds have enjoyed it mor if it was told in the usual style of a book, because I couldn't really see the story as something I'd be watching on telly. I liked the setting, the luxury villa in the middle of nowhere with nothing but sun, sea and sand. It made the perfect summer read, and also added to the suspense that they were all alone.

The characters in Cruel Summer were brilliant, my favourites being Katie, Alisha and Roxanne. They were compelling, and I didn't really want any of them to be murderer. Needless to say, when I found out who it was it was perfect and crazy so I didn't reply mind. One thing that I found slightly irritating was Ryan and his constant comparison of everything being like a TV show. It was kind of annoying, and it took away from the suspense. I wanted to focus on the story. What I loved was that the relationships between the characters seemed perfectly fine at the beginning, but as the mystery unfolded, they turned out to be scandalous. I love each character in their own way and I think they were perfect for the story.

"He just wanted some answers. Ryan didn't believe for a second that Janey Bradshaw had killed herself."

James Dawson is a fantastic writer. The style of writing in Cruel Summer was effortless and suspenseful. It was perfect. Definitely the best aspect of the novel. That first paragraph has to be one of the best I've ever read. Beautifully descriptive. His writing style has intrigued me to read more of his books, which I'll hopefully get around to doing soon. I am always looking for unique writing styles in books, and tats what I found in Cruel Summer.

Overall, Cruel Summer is the perfect summer beach read. It was everything you could want in a murder mystery novel. Although I had some slight issues with it, I can't really complain because of how much I enjoyed reading this. I can't get enough of mystery novels now, and I want to thank James Dawson for getting me back into the genre. If you're looking for a thrilling summer read, Cruel Summer is for you.(less) [edit]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proper holiday horror for young people!, 27 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Kindle Edition)
Both my daughter (12) and I couldn't put it down. A great start to our holiday reading, and got us in the holiday mode; just glad our holiday didn't quite turn out like that!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sun, Sea, Sand and Secrets! A Favourite for this Summer!, 12 Aug 2013
By 
Jess Hearts Books (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
Cruel Summer was my first read from talented UK YA author James Dawson. I've been on a YA Summer Thriller kick this year and so was immediately interested in checking this book out after reading the synopsis. Then in came the glowing reviews and my book blogging friends telling me how much I'd love this one and so I decided to read it ASAP and promptly read the entire thing in one sitting because it was that good!

In a nutshell Cruel Summer is about a group of friends who haven't seen each other for a year since their friend Janey suspiciously committed suicide. On the one year anniversary of her death the friends decide to reunite for a sunny holiday in Spain. But in a remote area, with no phone reception, the teens are about to discover that Janey's death was only the beginning and that her killer might be on the Island with them demanding an encore.

Sun, Sea and Sand - I loved the setting for this story! The group's holiday villa sounded like a dream come true until it became their worst nightmare. I loved every single character in this book and really enjoyed reading about UK teen characters abroad. Each character gets to narrate the story and add their version of events at some point but for the majority this book is told from Ryan and Alisha's point of view. I really enjoyed having the dual boy/girl narrative that wasn't between a couple for once. Cruel Summer has a very cinematic feel which Ryan only adds to with his flair for the dramatic and how he imagines his life as an on-going TV series - starring himself as the main character of course! I can definitely see this as a TV show or British film - think Skins meets The Inbetweeners movie only with more murder and intrigue.

I really loved getting to know this group of friends and I soon felt like I was part of their group. But like every group of friends each of them has their secrets that they keep from each other. Some are connected to Janey's death and some are not. I loved untangling their messy little lies! Each character had motive to be the killer and I suspected everyone at some point or another but at the same time I couldn't imagine any of them being a cold blooded murderer because I liked them all so much!

Although by the end of the book I did suspect who the killer was (which I don't think really counts as like I said I suspected everyone!) I didn't see their motive coming at all although looking back there are some very subtle clues. There were twists and turns until the very end and there were a lot of red herrings to keep you guessing. I must warn you that this is most definitely a thriller, once you start it you won't want to do anything else! And James Dawson isn't afraid of killing off his characters so don't go getting attached to anyone like I did! *Sobs.*

Overall Cruel Summer delivered everything I could want from a gripping Summer Thriller/Murder Mystery and it genuinely gave me the creeps at times. I'd really love it if James Dawson stuck to this genre as I'd love a thriller as good as this one to read every summer! Cruel Summer is definitely one for the beach (or not if you're a big baby like me!) and I'm now eager to get my hands on Hollow Pike - James Dawson you have yourself a new fan!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's A Cruel (cruel) Cruel Summer!!, 7 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I have known about this book for months and looked forward to it since I very first saw the cover reveal so I had very high hopes for it and thankfully it lived up to my expectations and more.
I have always been a sucker for teen horror and have devoured every single Point Horror book in my years so you'd think I'd have figured out the killer in this book - yeah right, I literally had no clue, every single character had some sort of motive and I was going back and forth with who I thought had done it. I adore James Dawson's writing, the main character Ryan was a joy to read, a real drama queen who visualised everything as if he was starring in his own reality show. (Thats one reality show I would definitely watch!)
I can't really say much more without veering into spoiler territory other than that James has done it again, after his truly wonderful debut Hollow Pike, he has followed it up with another wonderful novel full of rich characters and a plot that will keep you guessing and racing through the pages. Quite simply, its a must-read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The poster child for descriptive writing, 6 Aug 2013
By 
Book Angel Emma (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
Let me start by saying that James's power of descriptive writing simply astounds me. This book could be the poster child for school on just how to master descriptive writing. Right off the bat there is simile, metaphor and personification and that is just on the first page. In other words James Dawson made SOAPMAN his bitch ;) (Simile, Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, Personification, Metaphor, Atmosphere and Nouns (really its higher vocabulary but nouns fit)) Huge thanks to the brilliant Head of English, Sarah Holden for the acronym.

I have to say it and you probably aren't going to believe me but I totally knew who did it from about half way through the book. It comes from a childhood of devouring all things Enid Blyton :) The red herrings for me were glaringly obvious BUT the entertainment value of the plot twists cannot be measured. What did come as a complete shock was the motive - oh yeah you could have blown me over with a feather with that one, lol.

Told in third person narrative but focalised from two main characters point of view, you get a deeper understanding of the dynamics of their relationships and their interactions/reactions. The story is actually told as a screen play/TV programme (in scenes). I found I paced myself while reading it as if it really was a TV show, stopping at the cliffhanger to make a cup of tea or see to the children, returning to the book ready for the next `episode'. I think I have to thank Ryan for that :)

The story is fabulously well paced; the characters quirky, their twisted bonds of friendship all tangled together plays with your mind; how well do you really know someone, everyone has his or her secrets.

Perfect thriller blending with short action packed chapters, high levels of anticipation throughout add to the tension, red herrings combined with almost jaw dropping twists topped with with a myriad of cliffhangers. This book certainly has the feel of `I know What You Did Last Summer'. The way in which the plot unfolds is sheer brilliance.

Is it wrong that I want to be James's therapist just to try to understand how that man's mind works :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cruel Summer, 3 Aug 2013
By 
Ms. G. Myler "georgie" (York, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Kindle Edition)
Wow, but this guy can *write*. Just like ‘Hollow Pike’, ‘Cruel Summer’ had me gripped from the start. I was completely plunged into the world of the characters and it really did keep me guessing as to what happened to Janey, who killed Roxanne, and just what was going on with the characters besides that. I also had several ‘OMG’ and ‘LOL’ moments as well.

Six friends go on holiday to an isolated beach villa in Spain one year after their friend, Janey, supposedly killed herself after an unpleasant incident at their sixth form leavers’ ball. The friends - Katie, Greg, Alisha, Ryan, and Ben (joined by Erin, Greg’s latest girlfriend) - haven’t seen each other since Janey’s funeral. Ryan in particular has his suspicions about Janey’s ‘suicide’ and these are confirmed when an old enemy - Roxanne (she stole Alisha’s boyfriend when they were at school) turns up at the villa with ‘evidence’ that one of them killed Janey. Next day, Roxanne turns up dead. And it simply gets better and scarier from there. One of them is a killer.

The characters in ‘Cruel Summer’ are really well drawn and there’s a lot more going on with them than it seems at first. At first, they all seem to fit typical teen-horror-movie roles - The Good Girl (Katie), The Bad Girl (Alisha), The Gay Guy (Ryan), The Jock (Greg) The Sweet Guy (Ben), The New Girl (Erin) and of course The Bitch (Roxanne). Indeed, the book is told from different points of view - mostly Ryan and Alisha’s, and actor and tv-addict Ryan actually pretends like they are all in a typical hot teen tv series (and later horror movie) with multiple ‘seasons’, flashback scenes, and pairings (Katie and Ben). The ‘chapters’ are actually ‘Scenes’ told from the characters’ different points of view, and this worked really well, adding to the dramatic, tension building immediacy of the plot, as well as making it all seem very visual and film-like (in a really cool way).

My favourite characters were Ryan and Alisha. Like all of the characters, as if the basic ‘one of us is a killer!’ drama they have their own tumultous issues going on as well. This was great as it stopped the plot becoming formulaic and broadened it out, keeping me wondering about more than just who the killer was, and it also made all of the characters more real and dramatic.

I hope Mr Dawson is going to write many more books. He is not only a fantastic YA author, but just a fantastic author full stop, and ‘Cruel Summer’ blows a lot of ‘adult’ crime fiction right out of the water.

Five stars, A++=+, absolutely great read. Read it now!!!!
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Cruel Summer
Cruel Summer by James Dawson (Paperback - 7 Aug 2014)
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