Title: The Cruelty Author: Scott Bergstrom Genre: Ya, Fiction, Crime Rating: Four Stars
WARNING – This review will contain spoilers. I just couldn’t help myself, I need to get this all off my chest!
Disclaimer : This review has been sponsored by Walker Books Australia however I would like you to know that everything I mention in my review is my genuine opinion. This review has been in no way influenced by other sources.
Thank you Walker for supporting me and allowing me to review this book for you, I am greatly humbled.
I need to start off by saying congratulations! Scott Bergstrom has outdone himself, despite this novel being his debut it is by no means elementary in writing style, technique and plot.
I’ll admit I was a little tentative when I began reading The Cruelty not just because it was a debut novel but because – ready for it, here comes the confessions – I’ve never really read a YA criminal/detective fiction book before. I also noticed something quite shocking right before I started The Cruelty. With all the hundreds of books I’ve read I’ve always somehow, unknowingly, read female authored books. I was so shocked when I noticed this and I’m hoping its just that the genre I read more of is predominantly female but with that knowledge in mind I was so excited to give this book a good hard go, and lucky for me this book completely surpassed all my expectations!
If you’ve been a follower for a while you will know I always judge a book by its cover, please forgive me for this minor imperfection of mine, but hey, a good cover needs to accurately represent the elements within the book otherwise, whats the point? I love this cover, it is so simple and completely individual and so very effective. So if you haven’t read this book and want to know more about it, look at the cover. That’ll give you a pretty good gist of what you’re getting yourself into!
The publication opens with a simple quote which I find quite relevant and personally I think is so beautifully honest. You may take this as you will because there are numerous ways to interpret it. And I love that.
“Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults,
in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually
looking upwards, and a few faces are at their
best when seen from below.”
If you’ve now looked at the cover of the book you’ll know that this story follows “A girl, A daughter, An assassin” and her name is Gwendolyn. I loved Gwendolyn’s character, at first I wasn’t so sure, she seemed a little distant and cold but when I read past that and found out more about her character I realized she is just misunderstood and feels alienated, this is due to her father’s occupation and the constant moving all throughout her childhood. I’ve read a few other blogger’s reviews and the general consensus was that Gwendolyn was cold and unrelatable but I have to strongly disagree. Her relationships with those around her like Bela and Lili as well as her father are proof that she is caring and loving, hell even throw in Aunt Georgina and Yael. What I also love is that she was undeniably loyal, it takes a strong person to decide to take on the world to find your father and an even stronger one to do it on your own. I love a good strong main character, it means that there is never a dull moment and they can usually do what needs to be done instead of what is considered the ‘proper’ way to do things.
When Gwendolyn became Sofia, Bergstrom had me almost forgetting that Gwendolyn and Sofia were one and the same. She took on her fake identity without flaw and just when you might forget that Sofia was Gwendolyn there was a tiny reminder dropped there like her struggling to hold her Russian accent in place.
There was so much action going on in this book it was unbelievable. Every page you turned there was a new piece of information, some action or connection being made and I found myself unable to look away from the pages. This was not what I refer to as a ‘three peak plot’, I’ve noticed that many new authors might use this layout for their story lines, it gives you a generic plot and makes the spaces in between peaks rather dull.
Now there is only two reasons I gave this book a four instead of a five stars and its not for anything major, it’s purely personal preference.
The first is that I loved Christian and didn’t really get the chance to like Terrance.
I felt like the main scene’s between Terrance and Gwendolyn were a little bit dreamlike in their details. They came across very airy and cloudy both in feeling and description. Perhaps that was the intention but for me to feel the depth that the main character did I needed a little more suspense or build up of emotion. I didn’t feel like there was enough time to develop that deep a connection between them. I thought they would make better best friends than love interests but my opinion is also biased because I adored Christian. (A fatal flaw on my part, I should know better than to like the bad ones!)
I thought that Christian and Gwendolyn could have made such a great team together and their scene’s were so natural and adorable so I genuinely thought that he might discover her secret and perhaps help her. I was a little disappointed in the way Gwendolyn treated him in the end, their last scene together was so emotional I really didn’t know which one of them to feel sorry for more. Christian had stood up for her, taken two rough beatings for her and was still apologizing to her like it was him and not her that was causing the problems. He was still part of a rough gang but somehow he didn’t loose a touch his masculinity when he was being sweet and caring. My favorite part of this book was when Christian realized that Sofia was a spy and “A tear forms at the corner of his left eye and breaks loose, running down his temple to his ear”page 245. I think I cried with him then. I cried for the girl Gwendolyn used to be and for the one she was becoming, I cried for him and all the beatings he’d taken for her and how he just happened to get caught up in it all. I never believe it when an author tells you that a character has died and you don’t get to see/read it, so I’m secretly hoping Bergstrom will surprise me and give him back to me.
The second reason I gave this a four instead of a five is something so small I feel really silly mentioning it! But here we go – Paulus had given Gwendolyn’s father over to Kladivo so when Paulus discovered Sofia was a spy and put two and two together assuming that Sofia was Gwendolyn I thought it was really odd that he didn’t give Kladivo a heads up to expect trouble. He knew if Sofia was Gwendolyn, she would be going after Kladivo for vengeance. Why didn’t he call? Perhaps he didn’t truly know and was just guessing, perhaps I’ll find out why in book two, in which case you can expect me to amend my rating!
I’ve barely covered the action scene’s in this review because there is so much but I feel like I need to mention them briefly. I loved it when Yael was teaching Gwendolyn how to fight, Yael’s character was so interesting. Side note – I totally knew she had been in love with Gwendolyn’s father as soon as she mentioned a spy working from another country so I loved the bond that her and Gwendolyn forged. Anyway back to the action scenes, woah. Where do I even start? There are so many scene’s, so much detail in each action that I felt like I knew how to fight the bad guys but the scene’s I’m going to bring up is the final few. I knew Gwendolyn had hardened up and become the cruelty she had endured but I was so taken aback when she was on the weapons haul, learning how to drive the truck with Emil and decided that she was going to ruin them all right then and there. I’d known it had to be coming but I wasn’t expecting it right at that moment so when she shot Emil in the head I was holding my breath, waiting, waiting for the moment she got caught. But when she tricked all of the men into the truck I was sitting in bed jumping, cheering for Gwendolyn. I had no idea she’d taken an RPG or grenade or whatever it was. She just blew them to bits. WHAT. I wasn’t sure if I’d misread her intentions and went back and read through it again and I wasn’t wrong, she totally just killed another five men by simply throwing a grenade at a truck full of hundreds of explosives. She’d just gone from kick-ass to bad-ass in an instant but wait there was more. I knew she had more in stock for Kladivo and Roman the moment she crashed the auction. I was waiting for the moment to strike but again Bergstrom had surprised me and done the unexpected. There was not one single shot fired, no kicking or punching like I’d been hungrily waiting for. She simply got them drunk and unawares and poisoned them. That was it, she didn’t get caught, no one even suspected her. That scene right there was so satisfying because she won, Kladivo and Roman had been so secure in their position that they never expected a woman to be the ruin of them and it was perfect. I drank in each and every word of that scene up like it was vodka.
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Till next time,