Cruel Summer by Bernard Jan
Conspiracy, murder, dystopia, young adult fiction / extreme sports: skateboarding
Blurb: “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.”
Michael is a seventeen-year-old boy living in New York. His mother died a few months back, and he cannot find peace of heart and mind ever since. He is not on good terms with his father, Hank Daniels, and his sister Rebecca is in Denver, visiting their grandparents during summer vacation.
Yes, it is summer, but a different one. With temperatures more appropriate for winter and with lots of dark events, it resembles more of a cruel summer. Michael loves skateboarding, and his main wish would be to take it to the professional level. And this sport and his friends are what keeps him sane. Behind his beautiful psychical figure, intelligent mind, and good heart, Michael hides a big secret. He is ashamed and afraid to share it with his friends. Michael doesn’t know that his friend Alien knows more about him. However, he does know that his friends are on his side, and he can count on them during the hardest times.
There are many touching scenes in the story. I loved the most the one when Michael visits Victor's grandmother, Angela, and he reads her poetry. Skateboarding and poetry may not seem to interest the same person. But it does Michael.
Michael visits almost daily his mother's grave. “Mama, I’m not happy. Nothing’s been good since you’ve been gone. I’m lost in a world I do not understand, and I am trying to find myself. I despise so many things, and there is so little worth living.”
Michael misses his younger sister and scares her a bit when he’s telling her about the visions he has about her. He calls them presumptions. At his father’s suggestion, Michael starts seeing a psychiatrist, Neil. Neil gains Michael’s trust. For a short period, it seems that Neil can help him. Until one day when Michael decided that he needs to stop it.
Rebecca suffers too from her mother’s death and finds a bit of relief in the company of Sunny Red. But this relief is about to end when something terrible happens. Her father is dead, and Michael is assumed to be the killer. A real family drama where murder is only one of the so many awful things that take place. Is Hank the victim here or the one to blame for so many wrong things?
It is a heartbreaking story, full of love, trust, loyalty, family drama, conspiracy, and a brilliant inclusion of skateboarding. The author, who ingeniously describes skateboarding moves at the beginning of each chapter, managed to create an unpredictably compelling story, beautifully written and beautifully crafted just like in his other books: A world without color, Look for Me Under the Rainbow, and January River.
My rating: 5/5.
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