Choice Books- Luke Phillipi- Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan
Book: Duncan, Lois. Summer of Fear. Boston: Little, Brown, 1976. Print.
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Read-Aloud: Will be done by Wednesday
Summary: Rachel is set for a great summer- she is ready to go swimming with her boyfriend, she is getting along great with her two brothers and her folks are finally starting to realize that she’s a mature teenager. However, on one of the first days of her break her family gets a phone call that her mother’s brother and his family died in a car accident out in the wilderness- Rachel’s cousin Julia was the only one to survive. Rachel’s family immediately insists that Julia come and live with them. After Julia arrives, Rachel seems to have been forgotten entirely- from Julia taking over Rachel’s room, to Rachel’s boyfriend spending some ‘quality’ time with Julia. But then things start getting really… strange. Trickle, Rachel’s favorite dog and best friend, randomly is found dead after growling at Julia. And then Rachel ends up doing favors for Julia against her will. All of this leads Rachel to begin to suspect that Julia is actually a witch who is controlling her family for her own personal desires. Rachel has to control her sanity and get to the bottom of the circumstances around Julia and figure out a way to return her world to normal.
Themes- The first theme would obviously be jealousy here- the majority of the book is Rachel watching in horror as Julia slowly invades her life, from little things like the routine Rachel has to much more important things, like her boyfriend being with Julia or Trickle dying. Lois Duncan writes a lot about Rachel and how she reacts to Julia’s actions and much of the text shows Rachel and her jealousy over the situation.
I think another theme would be the growing up and the fear that is associated with an uncertain future. Julia here the one with the literal uncertain future, as her family has just died. However she isn’t the one who struggles with changing circumstances, Rachel is. Rachel seems to be in love with her world the way it is right now, and she doesn’t know how to react when that fine equilibrium changes.
Connections: This book is older, as it was published first in the late seventies. I wouldn’t specifically use the book for the classroom- the writing is very simple and basic. I was able to get through most of the book in two hours. The book also isn’t a very diverse book- Rachel’s emotional turmoil is the center of the story, and not many other topics could be considered classroom discussion material.
Reactions: Personally, I could really tell the age of the book. The protagonist is sixteen and Lois Duncan really writes the girl as though she’s fourteen, or perhaps a very spoiled sixteen year old. The book was such a fast read, I didn’t really get pulled into it a lot. I wouldn’t really recommend it because of the simplicity of the text, but perhaps if someone was struggling to find some personal reading, I would offer the book up.
“I don’t want to say too much about Julia because Rachel figures out what is going on with her pretty quickly and most of the book is spent having Rachel trying to convince her family that Julia is not who she seems. Some of Lois Duncan’s books are downright creepy, but Summer of Fear wasn’t too bad. It was pretty tame and I was never that scared during it, which was a little disappointing.”- http://wwwsimplymegan.blogspot.com