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I Know What You Did Last Summer    by Lois Duncan order for
I Know What You Did Last Summer
by Lois Duncan
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2005 (1973)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

It only takes one note, only one sentence, to panic four persons who have made a pact of secrecy. Julie James is ecstatic over an acceptance letter from Smith College, her opportunity to get away from it all. Opening the second piece of mail changes Julie's mood. Addressed to her in big, block print with no return address is a note: I Know What You Did Last Summer, sending coldness throughout her body.

Helen dropped out of high school at the end of junior year, but has lucrative employment at the local station as Channel Five's Golden Girl. She resides at the Four Seasons Apartments, and enjoys being with boyfriend Barry Cox. Barry is a freshman and fraternity house brother at the local university; he has been dating Helen since high school, but has other girlfriends on the sidelines.

Julie drives to the apartment complex to show Barry and Helen the letter. They panic but conjure excuses - a prank, a crank thing - 'somebody taking a jab at Julie', or did someone from the pact slip with some words? Perhaps Julie's ex-boyfriend Ray sent the note as a joke. After high school graduation, Ray Bronson moved to California to get away from the town and its memories; however, it didn't work. Helen announces to Julie that she has seen Ray back in town.

Ray visits Julie and admits, 'I kept waking up at night and seeing that curve in the road again - that bicycle coming suddenly out of the dark ... the thud and then the bump as wheels went over it. I'd lie there and shake.' Barry was driving that night, Helen in the passenger front seat, and Julie with Ray in the back seat. After the accident, Barry drove to a roadside phone booth to call 911, but hung up without identifying himself. They made a pact of secrecy, but now Ray wants to dissolve the pact and face up to what happened.

At the pool, Helen meets Vietnam vet Collingsworth Wilson, newly-moved into Four Seasons. Returning to her apartment she finds a picture of a little boy on her door. Ray receives an envelope with no return address, his name in the same black lettering as in Julie's note, containing a yellowed newspaper clipping - 'A ten-year old boy was killed last night in a hit-and-run accident on Mountain Road ... died en route to St. Joseph's Hospital.' Ray's immediate thought - 'So it's caught up with us, finally ... deep inside I somehow knew it would'.

On his way to the athletic field for a fireworks display, Barry is attacked. A frat brother testifies overhearing him on the house phone telling a caller they'd meet. Helen returns to her apartment to find a man sitting in a chair. He tells her, 'I'm going to kill my date tonight'. Julie prepares for an evening out, while her mother encourages her to stay in for the night. Mrs. James has had a lifetime of experiences with premonitions and knows 'something is going to happen'.

Lois Duncan's I Know What You Did Last Summer coaxes tensions to build, and plays on her characters inside a skillful plot, with a trademark Duncan twist and an accident that will change four teen lives forever. Her story ends abruptly, as abruptly as the messages received by the central players. Her other lauded works include A Gift of Magic, Ransom, They Never Came Home, The Third Eye, and many more.

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