Title: The Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Thriller
Book format: Paperback
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Description:  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.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  The Cruelty is an amazing thriller but takes a bit of time to get into. Written in the first person and in present tense the story starts off with Gwendolyn in school and we learn just how detached she is from other students. The whole beginning of this book really does take time to get into. I initially have no feelings towards Gwendolyn’s character, no sympathy, no connection, nothing at all and it felt difficult to like her or even like the book. The first chapters right until her father is kidnapped are honestly a little boring and it’s difficult to sympathise with her character because there’s little to like and there’s a sudden deep relationship with a boy from school which happens just minutes after they meet which is weird especially for a YA book.

I was over 100 pages into the story and wondering why this has been praised so much but I can tell you that it does get better, a LOT better, you just have to keep reading through the start to reach the real thriller story which starts after her father is kidnapped.

The tension starts to increase from this point and I started getting into the book although it still felt a little strange and at times unbelievable. Gwendolyn decides to go after her father herself and enter the world of criminals and spies. This whole idea for the book is also difficult to believe and it took until after Gwendolyn has been trained in how to look after herself for this book to really get exciting. After chapter 10, about 160 pages in, the book’s thriller aspect starts and from there on it’s an amazing read!

Despite the slow start the rest of the book really feels like a movie. There’s never a dull moment and the action keeps moving and jumping from one location to another. There are such exciting moments such as car chases and what is truly amazing is the way the author, Bergstrom, can surprise you again and again with different twists in the story. In many books I can often guess what is happening but not once in this story did I have any clue! The twists and surprises are exciting and just when you think you know how the story will end there are final twists right until the last page!

This book is more of a spy thriller than YA and it’s very dark in nature. It was originally offered to me for review and unofficially labelled as 16+ and I have to agree that this book is only for the older teens and adults. None of the aspects of a YA novel are in this book apart from the 17 year old protagonist. There are a lot of very dark moments, killings, deaths which are described in detail which would definitely shock young teens and those who don’t like dark scenes like that. I wouldn’t call it gruesome as it all happens quickly but it definitely isn’t for those who can’t handle death, blood, etc.

Apart from the violence there is also a lot of use of the f swear word, especially for a YA novel. It’s all in context given the dark setting but I still feel that it’s overused at times by some characters like Gwendolyn, especially as it is supposed to be a YA novel. There is no sex in this book but there is some drug use and mentions of prostitution, the sort of things you’d expect in the criminal underworld.

The ending was exciting and had a twist right until the last pages and although it wasn’t disappointing it wasn’t the overly happy ending you might expect. It was satisfying though and ends with the possibility of a book two which I’ve seen listed on Goodreads and hope to read.

Part of my rating of a book is on whether I’d want to read it again and despite the slow start I definitely would! I’m not sure this book fits into the YA catagory well, it would probably fit better as an adult novel and for Gwendolyn to be a couple of years older but it’s still a really great read. It’s so gripping and thrilling that you just never know what’s going to happen! And although I’ve seen other reviews mention that you never really warm too much to Gwendolyn’s character, perhaps that’s the point, given the dark world she enters and the dark things she has to do.

I’d definitely recommend this book to thriller fans everywhere, if you can get through the first chapters and believe that a 17 year old would do the things she does, then this book has such amazing twists and thrills that I so far haven’t read in any other books!

-Review first appeared online April 2017 – now republished here.

Do you like thrillers?  What do you think of this book?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂