Review: Cruel Summer – James Dawson

Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Title: Cruel Summer
Author: James Dawson
Publication date: 1 August 2013
Publisher: Indigo
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781780621081
Length: 324 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

A group of friends enjoy a long, hot summer in a Mediterranean villa – until someone starts killing them one by one…

A year after the suicide of one of their friends, the rest of the group decide to spend the summer together in a holiday villa in the Mediterranean. They’re hoping to get over the terrible events of the previous year, but then a new guest arrives – claiming to have evidence that the suicide was actually murder. When she is found dead, it becomes clear that the killer must be one of them – but who is it? And will they strike again?

My thoughts

I’ve heard a million wonderful things about this book even before I picked it up so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat, but I would have never predicted how much of a nail-shredder it actually is and how much I fell in love with it by the end. If I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I would say Cruel Summer is like a modern, young adult version of Agatha Christie’s timeless classic (and one of my favourite books of all time), And Then There Were None . It’s just as twisted, just as gripping as Christie’s book and is a definite must-read for adults and younger readers alike.

When I started reading the book it seemed a little slow paced compared to what I was expecting but once you get through the first couple of chapters it all makes sense. Every little detail from the characters’ past is relevant to the plot and what they’re going through at the moment and – as much as I dreaded it – it never gets dull. Not for one moment. In fact, once you realize that all of these characters all had a lot to lose  and could have easily killed Janey you just won’t be able to put the book down. I raced through the second half of the story in no time and couldn’t get it out of my head ever since.

Cruel Summer is simply brilliant, I literally can’t fault it. It could have gone wrong on so many levels. The narration – by a budding gay actor, Ryan, who tells the story as if they were in a horror movie in which he’s the main character – could have got terribly cheesy. It could have been too cliché, the romance element too easy to predict. But it wasn’t any of these.  Not only is Dawson’s writing so excellent and effortless that he makes you feel as if you were there with them on the beach but the way the whole story is built up is just fantastic. It’s one of my favourite young adult books and I can’t recommend it enough. Absolutely fantastic!

5 star rating


  1. says

    Great review! Cruel Summer reminded me of a Point Horror novel only more clever and less predictable. I really enjoyed it as well and if you say it’s similar to Then There Were None I’ll have to check that out as I enjoy reading books like that :)
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    • says

      If you loved Christie’s book and you like YA books in general I think you’re going to enjoy this one. The set-up is quite similar (a bunch of people stranded in a remote place and one of them turns out to be the killer) and I really liked the characters as well – which is always a plus. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did!


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