Shelf Discover Challenge Report: Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan

Why is Rachel the only one to sense the evil that surrounds Julia?

From the moment Rachel's cousin Julia arrives that summer, she seems to seep into Rachel's life like a poison. Everyone else is enchanted by her--including Rachel's boyfriend. But what does Julia really want?

When I was in middle school, I was a HUGE Lois Duncan fan. My absolute favorite book of hers is Locked in Time. To this day, I will read that book and still get chills and then start over thinking. Also it was around that time when the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer came out and everyone wanted to go back and read the book that the movie was based on. However, somehow I missed out on four of Duncan's books that are considered some of her classic YA thriller stories. This is the first of them that I read for the Shelf Discovery Challenge.

Rachel is a teenage girl who is preparing for what will be a normal yet exciting summer for her. She's made a bunch of plans, plus the guy she likes has finally shown interest in her and things are looking good there. Then the news that her aunt and uncle have suddenly died and her cousin Julia must come to stay with them. Right from the beginning, Rachel begins to have suspicions of Julia and that she may not be who she truly is. These suspicions deepen when everyone around her seems to be bewitched by Julia and falls under her spell. No one believes Rachel even when she finds almost concrete evidence and those who care about begin to suffer drastic consequences.

As interesting as the story is, it shows its age. If the book had been set in the 90s or beyond, there would have been many ways for Rachel to prove that Julia wasn't who she was. Obviously the technology didn't exist back then so it was just frustrating to see what now would be so easy, back in the 70s was impossible. Something that was of interest is the fact that Rachel's parents refuse to listen to her concern and worries. Granted, how Rachel presented these feelings was not done in the best way, but it must have been a sign of the times for her parents to immediately dismiss her and side instead with Julie. Nowadays, parents should know that if their child starts feeling uncomfortable or disturbed in situations like this, they MUST show concern and investigate. Also comments that were made about how first cousins can still date were slightly disturbing. There's also the ending and resolution that I don't want to spoil, but let's just say that I found a lot of questions still unanswered.

Overall though, I did enjoy the book. I think the cover for the version I read was a little off. It's a bit blurry but the picture of the face looks like a werewolf or something. The book does a good job of combining mystery, terror and suspense without having to resort to sex, violence or language. There's lots of good buildup (ok I will admit, I peeked at the end) and it really keeps you on the edge of your seat. Teens of today will still enjoy this classic YA terror novel of the 70s.

I also found out that Wes Craven directed a TV movie based on this book starring Linda Blair as Rachel and Fran Drescher as her friend Carolyn (wonder if she spoke in the nasal voice). It was made in 1978 but I'm going to try to track it down to see how faithful or how much scarier Craven made the movie. Either way it should be interesting!


  1. I am embarrassed to admit that after your review, but I never read a Lois Duncan book. I am so curious now though! I didn't have this one down on my list for SA challenge, but now I'm re-thinking that!

  2. I don't think I've read Lois Duncan either. I wish I hadn't already bought my SA challenge books.

  3. I loooooved Lois Duncan in middle school. I still make sure we have her books in the library and they still circulate. My fave was Stranger With My Face.

  4. Lois Duncan sounds so familiar, but I'm not sure I've read any of her books. You've reminded me that I need to get hot with the SA challenge.


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