Book Review – Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman


Pages: 
272
Published: 5th May 2016
Started reading: December 1
Finished reading: December 3

Synopsis

Skye is looking for an escape from the reality of last summer when her sister died in a tragic accident. Her parents think that a camp for troubled teenagers might help her process her grief.

All of the kids at the summer camp have lost someone close, but is bringing them together such a good idea? And can everyone at camp be trusted?

When Skye starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister, she knows it’s time to confront the past. But what if the danger is right in front of her?

Review

Having read and enjoyed Sue Wallman’s other two YA novels earlier in the year, I always expected to like this one. However, I did not expect it to be quite so impactful. This book explores a very wide range of themes, which are extremely prominent throughout, and act as an effective series of underlying messages within the overall plot.

Many of these themes are reasonably hard-hitting, but they are handled in an accessible way that is ideal for a young adult audience. It is a mixture of harsh reality and poignancy, and I found this aspect of the book to be very believable and well-written, tying in smartly with the concept as a whole.

I liked the concept. It is original and fascinating, and allows the reader to develop an instant connection with the story and the sense of meaning that it carries. It also uses flashbacks to conjure up some powerful imagery, which will act as one of my most abiding memories of the book.

The plot at times felt somewhat insubstantial, but as it developed, it became clear that this would be a coming of age story, of how Skye uses her inner bravery to overcome her trauma. The book’s central mystery was resolved much earlier than I was expecting, and instead giving way to an ending that was more dramatic and tense.

I have mixed feelings over the ending. It made for quite a gripping read, but other hand it lacked a bit of subtlety. Still, I liked it until I reached the epilogue, where a strong and thorough resolution is sacrificed in favour of a romance element. Happy ending or not, I was still slightly disappointed that the explanations at the end felt rushed.

Another thing I was a bit disappointed about was the main setting of Morley Hill. The idea behind it was very good, but given that it plays such a big role in the book, it is a shame that it did not feel especially well realised. There were some good descriptions here and there, but generally I found it hard to visualise as one central location.

On the plus side, the characters are believable and very well developed. Skye is the narrator, and although there are times where she seems a little unfriendly, she generally came across as fairly likeable, and I was definitely rooting for her towards the end. I also like how Fay’s vulnerability is portrayed, and the multi-layered personality of Luisa during the flashbacks.

Overall, this was powerful and engaging young adult book. It is strong conceptually, and particularly excels in the way it handles several challenging topics. Skye emerges as a good heroine, it is full of teenage characters who all have their own personal stories to tell. With a bit more refinement and a stronger setting, it would have been better, but still an enjoyable read.

Themes

As explained in my review, this book explores a lot of different, potentially challenging themes. These include bereavement, cyber-bullying, post-traumatic stress, and attempted suicide.

Although they are covered sensitively, if any of these things are likely to trigger a negative reaction, then it may be a good idea to skip this book.

Verdict

I underestimated the power of this book. The themes portrayed were strong and poignant, and sometimes overshadowed the plot line. But it was a good read from an author who I really like.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

6 thoughts on “Book Review – Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman

    1. I came across Sue Wallman’s books about six months ago when I was browsing through YA, and have now read all three. She writes really well and creates interesting plots although her endings are slightly hit and miss. My favourite book by her is definitely See How They Lie, I loved that one. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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