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Summer of Fear    by Lois Duncan order for
Summer of Fear
by Lois Duncan
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2005 (1976)
Softcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

As is typical of her work (over fifty books for young readers and adults), Lois Duncan's Summer of Fear keeps readers on tenterhooks. Rachel (Rae) looks back in time to draw readers into her family's life one particular summer.

Word comes of the death of Mom's sister and husband, whose car went over an embankment. Rachel and her brothers Bobby and Peter await their parents' return home, after they travelled to oversee funeral arrangements for Aunt Marge and Uncle Ryan. Their cousin, Julia Bryant, is introduced to Rachel and her siblings, and welcomed into the family, but Rachel is immediately uncomfortable with something she senses in Julia's deep, dark eyes.

The family dog Trickle is a gentle canine, but when he meets Julia his ears go back, he bares his teeth and growls. After Trickle bites Julia, Dad decides that the dog will be tied up outside and no longer allowed to come into the house.

Rae awakens the morning of the school dance with a swollen face and body - the doctor says it is a bad case of hives. Rae had made a new dress for the occasion. Her parents suggest that Julia go to the dance with Rae's boyfriend Mike and with Peter, whose band will be playing that night. Julia gets to wear Rae's new dress, a perfect fit. Peter comes home without Julia, who arrives much later with Mike. Julia and Mike claim they have fallen in love.

Rachel tells her parents that there is something evil in Julia, but they retort that Rae is jealous. Dad grounds Rae for the way she has been treating her cousin. The uncomfortable feelings continue as Rae watches Peter's feelings develop for Julia, and Bobby sticking up for his cousin. While Julia is away, Rae finds hidden books of matches, and a wax animal figure in the bedrooom. Rae researches witchcraft at the library, and looks to a neighbor for help.

Retired from the University's Sociology Department, Professor Jarvis had given lectures on witchcraft. He is the only one to understand Rachel's insights and gut feelings about her family situation. Then the Professor is taken to the hospital suffering from a stroke. While re-reading the library books, Rachel finds something that grabs her attention, causing concern.

Lois Duncan has received Young Readers Awards in sixteen states and three other countries. Six of her novels - Summer of Fear, Killing Mr. Griffin, Gallows Hill, Ransom, Don't Look Behind You, and Stranger With My Face - were made-for-TV movies. I Know What You Did Last Summer and Hotel For Dogs were box office hits from book-to-theater movies.

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