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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

I Know What You Did
Last Summer

Lois Duncan

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To purchase I Know What You Did Last Summer

Title: I Know What You Did Last Summer
Author: Lois Duncan
Genre: Novel
Written: 1973, rev. 2010
Length: 211 pages
Availability: I Know What You Did Last Summer - US
I Know What You Did Last Summer - UK
I Know What You Did Last Summer - Canada
I Know What You Did Last Summer - India
I Know What You Did Last Summer - Deutschland
So cosa hai fatto - Italia
. .
DVD I Know What You Did Last Summer - US
  • Includes a Q & A with the author
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer was made into a film in 1997, directed by Jim Gillespie and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar

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Our Assessment:

B- : rather simplistic, in every respect, but some decent suspense

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       I Know What You Did Last Summer takes place nearly a year after four teenagers accidentally ran down and killed a boy. The four -- Barry, Helen, Julie, and Ray -- didn't go to the authorities (beyond a brief call to alert them of the accident) and they made a pact not to say anything to anyone about what happened, and for nearly a year their secret seemed to be safe.
       No longer: beginning with a note Julie gets claiming 'I know what you did last summer' it seems someone else is now in the know. The first messages are ambiguous enough that the gang is concerned but not sure whether it isn't just some prank that they're reading too much into -- especially since there are no real threats accompanying them. But soon enough things get more serious.
       The four friends went some separate ways after last summer: Julie buckled down and became a serious student (she just got into Smith), and she broke up with Ray, who headed west to get away from it all. The beautiful Helen dropped out of high school and has begun her TV career; she's still seeing Barry, but the relationship has gotten a bit rocky. Now Ray is back in town -- and they can all feel the noose tightening.
       Duncan paints in rather simple blacks and whites, with limited depth to her characters -- though their different trajectories (plus that of, for example, Helen's far less successful older sister) are interesting enough that this doesn't matter too much. Occasionally, the shallowness of the characters is problematic, especially when Barry repeatedly lies (and gets jealous, for little reason and without asking for an explanation); a bit more communication among the four and things likely wouldn't have turned out nearly so badly. Julie's mother's premonitions of really bad things happening is also a painfully artificial way of creating suspense: a character who 'feels' bad things are in the air to signal bad things is a very weak fallback.
       The clues, about what might be happening, are okay, and the final explanation and twist is fine, making for a reasonably suspenseful guilt-ridden thriller, but the writing (and some of the plotting) is very, very basic.
       I Know What You Did Last Summer was made into a very successful but much more graphic movie; a Q & A with Duncan included in the new edition has her describe her shock about what they transformed her work into. Some changes were necessary -- indeed, the fundamental twist in the book couldn't (readily) be replicated on screen -- but readers should be aware that the film is quite fundamentally different.
       Note also that the new edition is a revised one: it has been 'updated' to include technology not available back in the original day (1978) (GPS, cell phones, texting, e-mail) as well modernized in a few other ways (one of the character fought in Iraq, for example, and some of the clothes have been brought up to date, etc.). It probably would have been fine to leave things be; it doesn't sound much more contemporary -- but then the fundamental and important parts of the novel, the guilt amd the threat that gradually takes shape, are fairly timeless.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 November 2011

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I Know What You Did Last Summer: Reviews: I Know What You Did Last Summer - the film: Lois Duncan: Other books by Lois Duncan under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Lois Duncan lived 1934 to 2016.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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