I Know What You Did Last Summer follows a group of four teenagers, Julie, Helen, Ray and Barry, who are responsible for a hit and run which took the life of a 10 year old boy. One year on, their secret still hidden, Julie receives an anonymous note that simply says ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’.
Aside from the fact that the group have been involved in a hit and run the plot of the book differs greatly from its’ 1997 film adaptation. When it came to the big screen I Know What You Did Last Summer was presented as a teen slasher from Kevin Williamson the writer behind the Scream and later its’ three popular sequels. The novel however simply tells the story of how the group of teens are trying to cope with what they have done, and whether the truth will finally be revealed.
Initially the characters are introduced with a fair amount of depth for such a short book which is an effective way to draw you into their story. There is definitely a clear balance between good and bad within each of the main characters however it is hard to sympathise with them because of what they have done. As for the identity of the ‘stalker’ who is targeting them, I thought this twist was predictable but still far better than that of the film. The plot is well-paced throughout with an interesting choice of ending point which lets the reader imagine what happened next rather than exploring the outcome.
The novel was originally published in the 70’s however the version I read had been revised in order to bring it up to date with current technology and recent events. Personally I wouldn’t have minded, and perhaps would have preferred, the original setting however I can definitely understand updating the novel to appeal to a new audience, particularly as sales rocketed after the release of it’s film adaptation.
Interestingly the edition I read also included an interview with author Lois Duncan in which she touched upon the film. From this I discovered that she disliked the adaptation as she was both surprised and unimpressed to find that the screenwriters had turned her simple suspense novel into a bold slasher film. Another intriguing snippet from the interview was how Duncan spoke about the dialogue used in her novel. Personally I found it quite unrealistic at times so it was interesting to hear her speak about the choice between writing how young adults/teens would actually talk vs. how adults would want them to.
I Know What You Did Last Summer works much better as a novel than it did on the big screen and although not particularly scary it is still a good little suspense novel.
3.5/5 Halloween pumpkins