Author Lois Duncan
Publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Year 2010, revised edition
Teaser/Reader Annotation They did not mean to hit the young boy; it was an accident that they all made a pact to forget. A year later, however, their past comes back to haunt them.
Plot Summary Late one summer night, four high school students – Julie, Helen, Ray, and Barry – made the mistake of committing a hit-and-run accident which killed a young boy. Horrified by what they had done, the group made a pact to hide the evidence and never speak of it again. Nearly a year later, their friendship broken beyond repair, one of them receives an anonymous note with only the words “I know what you did last summer” written across the page. When she returns to town to get back in contact with the other three it quickly becomes apparent that someone else knows what happened the night of the party and is out for revenge. When the threats start to become real it turns into a race against time as the teenagers try to discover who is behind the messages and newspaper clippings before they, too, become part of the body count.
Critical Evaluation This suspenseful novel will have readers quickly turning the pages as they become increasingly wrapped up in the mystery. The fact that Duncan deliberately kept secret any clues to the antagonist's identity until the big reveal only intensified the drama and brought to life the emotions of the teenagers involved. What could have been a weak point in the novel – a revolving door of point-of-view changes – is instead well-handled by Duncan. It is easy to follow and helps to give perspective to the events as they are happening as well as further connecting readers to the characters. While readers may go into this story believing it to be a novelization of the violent horror movie with the hook wielding murderer, it quickly becomes apparent that the novel is instead a gripping mystery based around the moral lessons of honesty and the dangers of living a lie. I Know What You Did Last Summer is a book that will have both male and female readers on the edge of their seats, waiting to unravel the pieces and discover the meaning behind it all.
About the Author Lois Duncan (April 28, 1934) is an American author who has written forty-eight novels spanning across the genres. Her parents were famous photographers who encouraged her writing pursuits as a young child, leading to the publication of her first work at the age of thirteen. While she is best known for her young adult works, Lois also spent part of her career working as a journalist with over 300 articles published in magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Reader's Digest.
While several of her novels have had movie adaptations, the most famous of these is the 1997 release of I Know What You Did Last Summer which has a sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer though it has no connections with Duncan's works. One of the most interesting facts about this, however, is that while the movie garnered a great deal of fame and attention to Duncan and her novel, she was very upset about the end result. She has mentioned in several interviews that she did not like seeing her mystery/thriller get turned into a slasher movie. It is unknown whether or not she regrets the production.
Primary Genre Mystery
Secondary Genre Horror/Crime
Curriculum Ties Driver's Education, Law
1) How else could the teenagers have handled the situation with the young child?
2) Should the group have alerted the police immediately upon receiving the notes despite the consequences? Discuss.
Reading Level/Interest Age 15+
Challenge Issues While parents could be concerned about the level of violence in the novel because of the movie tie-in, it would be easy to explain the difference between the horror film and the actual story in the book.
Why is it included? I was searching for potential horror books in the library and remembered this movie from my youth.