Cruel Summer

Cruel SummerCruel Summer by Bernard Jan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A masterclass in storytelling...

Cruel Summer by award-winning Croatian born author Bernard Jan is a superbly written and richly descriptive novel with brilliantly drawn characters and settings. The threads of storytelling are expertly woven in this Y/A dystopian tale that will guarantee the attention of the reader. Skillfully constructed, this gripping and emotional drama had me turning the pages from beginning to end.

The plot is intricately sculpted as the synopsis suggests: ‘All he wants to do is skate. But they have other plans for him. Michael Daniels is seventeen and dreams to enter professional skateboarding contests. But beneath New Manhattan, a city under the oppressive shadow of climate change, exists another world altogether—secret laboratories which threaten society as he knows it… Those with power will get what they want. No price is too high, even if it means making someone special or robbing them of their dignity, freedom . . . or life. The price is too high for Michael, though. He has endured his stepfather’s abuse and mind games for almost as long as he remembers. Until one day he takes matters into his own hands, ruining the lives of those he loves most. And his skateboarding friends, Alien and Victor, are his only hope for freedom… When there is no hope left, friendship is what remains.’

I enjoyed the story, character development, and dialogue. There were plenty of plot twists that I didn’t see coming and that added to the book’s mystique. When I stopped reading to work, I found myself wondering what happened in the book, and replaying parts of the novel in my head to see if I could figure more out. It has been a while since I enjoyed a book this much. It’s a first-class multi-layered dystopian fiction with perfect pacing.

The beauty of this book is in the potency of the characters and the author’s command of the language. The originality of the story lies in the effectiveness of the characters and the author’s microscopic viewpoint of the human condition. The most outstanding features of the book are the impressively realistic characters in the story and the author’s eloquence and mastery with the use of the English language. The story is layered enough that there’s no one marketing umbrella formula that can lump it together other than original, creative and thought provoking. It entertains but grabs you and doesn’t let go until it threads into your mind and makes you think.

Cruel Summer had every element a good story should have. An intriguing plot, attention to detail, but best of all fleshed out, well-written and well-rounded character development. There’s an abundance of well-illustrated scenes that make you feel like you are right there in the story, and that’s something I look for in a good book. It’s one of those stories that come along once in a while that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end. I’m giving nothing further away here. And this, I hope, will only add to the mystery and enjoyment for the reader.

I was impressed with the insight and empathy of the writer into the spirits of his characters. Any aspiring fiction writer will learn a lot about character development by reading Cruel Summer by Bernard Jan. Highly recommended.

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