Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer of Fear

Summer of Fear is a YA horror/thriller by the revered Lois Duncan.

Rachel is ready for a relaxing summer hanging out with her best friend and childhood playmate/recently turned boyfriend. But then her mother receives a call telling her that her sister (along with her husband and housekeeper) all died in a terrible car accident. Immediately Rachel's Mom and Dad head out to pick up Julia, the seventeen-year-old daughter that had been waiting at home and become suddenly orphaned.

Since her aunt, uncle, and cousin had moved to a remote area when Rachel was young for her uncle's writing, Rachel has never met Julia and only vaguely remembers her mentioned in Christmas letters. But she feels bad for the girl and tries to ready herself for another girl living with them - making sure the sad girl will feel welcomed.

Yet when Julia arrives... she is odd. Rachel tries to give her the benefit of the doubt, since her cousin is grieving - but there is something about her unblinking, penetrating stare that is unsettling. And then when Rachel's extremely gentle, laid-back dog growls at Julia, sending Julia into a shockingly sudden fit of anger - Rachel can't help but feel that something is very, very wrong. In fact, Rachel starts to notice that whenever Julia's parents are mentioned and people murmur their apologies at her loss, there is no real sadness in Julia's eyes - in fact, no emotion.

But none of her family agrees with her. Everybody, even her best friend, finds Julia enchanting and interesting - and implores Rachel not to be jealous of having another girl in the house. Yet Rachel's suspicions continue to grow as more and more things happen - bad things - that she believes are at the hand of Julia.

Rachel has no intention of letting this girl hurt everyone she cares about. So, though feeling more alone each day, she sets out to find out what is going on - and stop her.

Well, Lois Duncan sure knows how to put you on edge right away! She starts Summer of Fear with an enigmatic, future-like remembrance from Rachel that ominously hints at the horrors to come. And she makes the introduction of Julia very creepy - the scene in which Rachel's dog first growls at her causing me shivers and making my poor animal-loving soul very worried.

One of the scariest things about Summer of Fear is the horrible sense of Rachel being alone, of her being the only one with the realization that there is something very wrong with Julia. You feel her isolation terribly, and hurt for her. Lois Duncan is an excellent writer and shows it well as you put yourself in the story.

Shocks and twists slam one after the other, overwhelming me and keeping me turning pages frantically. Summer of Fear made me so nervous!!! And like other Lois Duncan books, she creates a smart, likable heroine that's easy to root for and agree with - making it all the more scary than when you're following the typical dumb bimbos on horror flicks that are usually asking for their trouble.

Summer of Fear thunders along determinedly, keeping a terrible ball of dread in my stomach the entire time and doing its job extremely well: that is, totally freaking me out, entertaining me, and keeping me glued to the pages which fly by in no time. And by the end - whew! All I can say is that it was one heck of a story and I don't want to give anything away!

Not one to read right before bed, in the dark, or when you feel particularly edgy already! But an awesome thriller that sends shivers down your spine!!! In my opinion, even more frightening that the last Lois Duncan book I reviewed - Down a Dark Hall. Both are excellent updated versions of classic horror novels that many new readers should find riveting!

*I received a review copy of Summer of Fear from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: has posted another Weekly Writing Challenge - this time in accordance with Divergent, a YA dystopian by Veronica Roth.

In it, Beatrice Prior finds herself in a society where you are only supposed to embody one persona: either Honest, Brave, Selfless, Peaceful or True. But what if she's more than one? What if she is nothing her society has ever had before? Who, or what, does that make her?

Hmm. Intriguing. A little lacking in detail, but I didn't try to look for more - because you know me! The less ya know, the better! ;)

Anyway, this week's challenge asks you to write a short story or poem revolving around a character that doesn't fit in - but in a more relatable, closer to home setting. You can do that! Knock their socks off! (Wow, I just totally gave away that I was a huge Archie comics fan, didn't I?)

Two winners (chosen by author Veronica Roth) will receive a copy of Divergent and three other books of their choice from the HarperTeen catalog. The same prize will be awarded to random commenters. To enter and find out all the info go here!

See y'all on Wednesday!

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