No one handles this genre like Lois Duncan. She wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer(which is very different from and far scarier than the movie, despite that film’s all-star 90s cast). She wrote Stranger With My Face, about a teenage girl whose likeness starts appearing all over town without her, and most terrifying of all, she wrote Summer of Fear. Buckle up, friends, because Ms. Duncan is about the scare the bejesus out of you.
Things are going pretty well for Rachel Bryant. She’s cute, her mom has a cool job as a photographer, she has a devoted and loving dog named Trickle and she’s dating the boy next door. No, there’s not much that could ruin Rachel’s summer, except for maybe finding out that her cousin Julia, who has recently come to live with the Bryants after losing her parents in a car accident, is a sadistic witch who intends to kill them all.
The evidence against Julia: She steals Rachel’s boyfriend -- NOT cool. Trickle the dog goes from biting her to dead under the porch in the course of about twelve hours. Julia is weirdly curvy for a teenager (and if you’ve seen the affront to cinema that is Orphan, you know where that plot twist is going). Also, it’s possible that she maybe is thinking about killing Rachel’s mother in the same way that she killed her own parents, with the end game of shacking up with Mr. Bryant and becoming Rachel’s new mom, as if no one will have a problem with this.
Here is my favorite thing about Summer of Fear: All teenagers are prone to conspiracy theories sometimes, as if the entire world is out to get them, or there is some truth that they have discovered that everyone else refuses to see. But this book TURNS THAT ALL ON ITS HEAD. In this case, Julia totally IS a witch, Rachel IS the only one who figures it out, and the other people in her life are RUINING IT by not listening to her. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how satisfying that plot line is for a sixteen-year-old? Take that, non-witch-believing-parents.
If you can handle it and decide to seek this out, please do try to find the original version in all of its 1980s splendor. The book recently got a facelift/update, at the expense of some of its campy fun.