Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 27, 2008
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "“This was supposed to be my best summer yet, the one I’ve been working toward since practically forever. Now I’m being banished from everything I know and love, and it just doesn’t make any sense.” 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."
Colby Cavendish, a former dork, is slowly moving up her school's popularity ladder. She recently befriended resident chief popular girl, which resulted in her ditching her former nerdy best friend, and she even started seeing a hot guy! Things are moving quickly for Colby, that is until her parents announce their impending divorce. She was hoping for a summer filled with with parties and boys, but her parents have sent her to live in Greece with her quirky Aunt Tally for the entire summer while her parents sort things out. Colby is miserable in Greece as they don't have reliable internet and she can't use her cell phone. It's a whole new world for Colby! She is really down until she meets dreamy Yannis who teaches her about life and how to appreciate it. Alyson Noel's Cruel Summer is the perfect beach read for when you want to escape from it all.
The setting is the beautiful Greek island of Tinos and Noel paints a stunning picture. It's incredible and as Colby is hating Tinos, I was secretly wishing I could be transported there and swim in the ocean, drink wine on the porch, and visit local cafes. Her Aunt Tally doesn't have internet, so Colby often visits the local internet cafe and starts writing a blog about her summer. The entire book is from her perspective, whether it be her blog or her journal. I thought the blog idea was pretty amusing, especially once she started to receive comments.
Colby was a tough character to relate to as she was extremely self absorbed. She ditched her former best friend quickly and treated her like crap. I had a hard time feeling sorry for her, especially when she was complaining that she stuck on a beautiful island in Greece. HELLO!?! It's paradise! But I understand that she was without her friends and at that age, friendship is extremely important. Colby's blog posts/journal entries were pretty limited and not as insightful as some other novels I've read which have utilized the same format. However, I do think Noel captured the typical teenager's angst accurately, because I'm sure most teenagers would react that way if they too were "banished" to Greece for the entire summer.
I like how this novel explores the idea of "unplugging." I feel like so many of us are dependent on the internet and other social media. Colby at first struggles, but she then learns to appreciate all that life has to offer. I think this is an important message for many of us and Cruel Summer made me want to go to some far off island and throw my iPhone in the sea.
If you are looking for a fun, quick read that's simply for mind-candy and entertainment, this is a beach read you should definitely check out. I could easily see myself soaking up the rays while reading all about Colby's adventures in paradise. In fact, I may pick up Noel's latest; a re-issue of Cruel Summer and Laguna Cove which is aptly named Forever Summer.
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