Wednesday 21 January 2009

Cruel Summer / Alyson Noel

Summary - Having recently discarded her dorky image--and the best friend that went with it--Colby Cavendish is looking forward to a long hot season of parties, beach BBQ’s, and hopefully, more hook-ups with Levi Bonham, the hottest guy in school. But her world comes crashing down when her parents send her away to spend the summer in Greece with her crazy aunt Tally.

Stranded on a boring island with no malls, no cell phone reception, and an aunt who talks to her plants, Colby worries that her new friends have forgotten all about her. But when she meets Yannis, a cute Greek local, everything changes. She experiences something deeper and more intense than a summer fling, and it forces her to see herself, and the life she left behind, in a whole new way.

Review - First of all, this is a beautiful, simple cover featuring the stark tranquility of the sky and great body language of the models. It jumped out at me from the shelves of my book store despite someone obviously already having read it (grrrr). I hadn't heard of Alyson Noel before I read this last night and I haven't seen her books on the shelves here in Adelaide, Australia but I will be seeking her out from now on. What I loved about this book was the very fluid, chatty writing style that flowed throughout. It may be a more casual style but don't assume there's no substance. We are able to access Colby's thoughts through letters, blog entries, texts, and diary entries and I found myself laughing and joyfully turning page after page. I particularly loved it when one piece of correspondance contradicted another as I felt that is was very true to the protagonist.

Colby suffers and she explains her suffering, at length. But she does it in such a whiney, bratty and remarkably unconscious way that it paves the way for actual, organic character development. Our heroine may dump her best friend, hook up with a shallow loser, break some rules and make really bad decisions but we don't hate her because of it. Why? Because Noel sprinkles comments about her homelife that make it truly impossible not to wish happiness for her. Divorce is pretty common these days and Colby's parents choose the road most travelled in their management of it. By that I mean...just plain mean to each other and periodically, Colby. I loved the flippancy and liveliness of this character, she possesses that classic impetuousness and enthusiam that you love to death in a person but which also drives you up the wall.

I loved the minor characters. Natalie, though we never witness any actual interaction with one another than some emails from Colby, is my fave. She is a true friend and someone that Colby eventually sees the value in. I have a real soft spot for Tally, Tassos and the beligerant Petros. Yannis sounds divine but I could take or leave him, the real story here is Colby and her striving unconsciously to be a better person.

Alyson Noel, I think I adore thee.

Published: 27 May 2008
Format: Paperback, 240 pages
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin
Origin: USA
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Official Alyson Noel Website
Alyson's blog

I felt old but happy that I actually knew who Bananarama were (check it out - Cruel Summer)

(Now I am going to email St Martin's and beg for some cross-Pacific Noel-love.)


Alea said...

I've heard people grumbling they didn't like this one so I'm glad you did! I'm excited to read it (sounded good to me!) and my sister happens to have a copy!

Anna said...

I, too, enjoyed this novel. :) To me it had a slow start, but once it picked up, I got really into it. :)


Adele said...

I have to agree with both opinions. The start is a little slowish but I think the style of narrative hurried it a long. Sometimes alternating between the blogs and diary entries could be frustrating but I think it added to the story.

It was a easy, fun read. I think it appealed to some of my feelings that I experienced regarding my parent's divorce as well. I liked it though.