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The Dead of Summer    by Camilla Way order for
Dead of Summer
by Camilla Way
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When The Dead of Summer opens, Anita Naidu seems eager to talk about some significant events in her life. As the daughter of an English mother and a Pakistani father living in Leeds, Anita's mother died when Anita was eleven years old. Then in the summer of '86 when she was thirteen years old, Anita and her fractured family (including several self-absorbed sisters and a difficult brother) moved to a tough neighborhood in south London.

When she enrolls in school in late spring, the withdrawn and troubled Anita finds herself drawn to two other social outcasts, Denis (a young boy of limited intellectual abilities) and Kyle (a strangely violent and intense adolescent). Anita and her two friends endure the mean-spirited taunts of their classmates, but they remain uniquely committed to each other - at least at the beginning of their fateful summer.

During the summer, however, Anita has reason to believe that something dark and disturbing may be affecting Kyle; she eventually stumbles upon a vile secret that explains her friend's singular personality. Then, when Kyle comes to Anita's defense against a neighborhood bully, Kyle's explosive behavior becomes the catalyst for a horrifying chain of events. However, Anita's belated revelation (to someone readers know only as Doctor Barton) and her attitude about those events are even more disturbing.

As a poignant and harrowing portrait of three lonely children, and as a chilling portrayal of violent passions and merciless evil, debut novelist Camilla Way's The Dead of Summer is provocative, bold, and remarkable. This first-rate literary psychological thriller is unique in its narrative style - with the narrator Anita moving back and forth in time between her thirteenth and twentieth years - and the novel is consistently sophisticated, compelling, and impossible to put down. Don't miss it!

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