Series: The Cruelty #1
Published by Walker Books on February 9th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository • Bookworld
The Cruelty is the first book from a groundbreaking new YA voice: an utterly compelling thriller.
When Gwendolyn Bloom realizes that her father has been kidnapped, she has to take matters into her own hands. She traces him from New York City across the dark underbelly of Europe, taking on a new identity to survive in a world of brutal criminal masterminds. As she slowly leaves behind her schoolgirl self, she realizes that she must learn the terrifying truth about herself. To overcome the cruelty she encounters, she must also embrace it.
Gwendolyn is a drifter, a typical diplo-brat hopping from country to country with her diplomat father. When Gwen’s father goes missing on a trip to Paris, she realises that the authorities have no idea where he is, and are scaling back their search. Taking the alias Sofia, Gwen travels to Europe and sets off on a chase across several countries, trying to track down her father’s kidnappers.
The Cruelty is an exciting read, with action pulling the story forward. The first few chapters contain a lot of story set-up, but once the adventure starts, it has a film-like momentum to it. Gwen finds help along her journey through France, Germany and the Czech Republic and there are some beautiful descriptions of the cities Gwen finds herself in.
Unfortunately, I found it difficult to connect with Gwen. She grows so much during her journey, but it’s more of a hardening than a self-discovery. She tries to keep from killing anyone for a while, but once that happens, she quickly slides into a cold, hard machine. Sure, Gwen has lived in several countries and is great with languages, but for someone who just found out her father is a spy, she seems to know a lot about stealth already and seems totally fine with getting involved in the criminal underworld of Prague.
I finished reading this book before finding out about the disparaging comments the author made about YA books in an interview with Publishers Weekly. He says, “The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA.” Really? Sure, there are some tough issues dealt with in this story, but this just isn’t written well enough to be attacking the rest of the age group. I’m not sure the author should be slammed for that comment alone, but the YA reader community is pretty upset about it.
A sequel, The Greed, is due out in 2018. I’m not sure I actually care enough about the characters to read on.