I Know What You Did Last Summer

6.0 Overall Score

Fun to compare for comparison of young-adult novels of today and yesterday

Quite tame by today's standards and simple mystery

Book Info

Book Title:  I Know What You Did Last Summer

Publisher:  Little Brown

Writer:  Lois Duncan

Release Date:  October 1973


Love photo covers!

Julie James is trying to plan her future while forgetting her past.  She’s just been accepted into Smith but with her acceptance comes an anonymous note…I Know What You Did Last Summer!  Julie and her friends Barry, Helen, and Ray did a bad thing on a dark night on a winding road and the event is still haunting them.  Now, someone knows it as them and is intent on making them pay.  Who is coming for them and how does he or she know what horrible thing they did to a young boy riding a bike?

Written by Lois Duncan, I Know What You Did Last Summer was a teen thriller published in 1973.  The popular novel regained popularity in 1997 when it was turned into a teen slasher film by Scream and Dawson’s Creek writer Kevin Williamson.

Teen fiction (or young-adult) is its own beast, and it honestly always has been.  With the real return of teen fiction with the popularity of books like Twilight, Divergence, The Hunger Games, and other series, it is interesting to go back and read an earlier teen fiction book to see how they compare.  Though this novel does seem to face more adult issues, it also feels lighter in violence than other current young-adult works.  Due to the idea that this is a mystery/suspense novel there is a *****Spoiler Alert***** throughout the review.

The book covers people slightly older than the young adult market in that one of the characters is just about to go to college and the other three characters have already graduated.  Today’s young-adult characters seem to be more age appropriate to the intended readers but often younger that the readers since young-adult novels are read by a large majority of adults.  I didn’t read I Know What You Did Last Summer as a kid (I started reading Stephen King and stuff in fourth grade so it would have been a bit of a letdown in comparison), but it would have felt that the four characters were adults since they live in apartments and have  jobs.  It would have felt like you were reading a “real novel” instead of a novel for kids…which would have been fun as a kid.


…and love painted covers

Opposed to today’s young-adult novels, the characters are facing more real world problems than the fantasy worlds created by many young-adult series.  Vietnam, protestors, and drugs are all hit on in this novel and that seems to be more of a no-no in today’s books which has characters dealing with vampires and other fantasy elements.

The danger however in the story isn’t as real since none of the characters really are killed (the film rectified this).  Even the jerky character and the stuck up “Golden Girl” weather woman survive and seem to come out of the book unscathed (it appears Barry will walk again).  The crime was real, a boy was killed, but the mystery is quite weak with his Vietnam half-brother avenging him (though I was a bit surprised he was two characters in the book…I couldn’t figure out why they were putting so much focus on Bud when obviously Collie was the brother).

I Know What You Did Last Summer is a quick read.  It isn’t very good and the characters aren’t crafted that well, but it is a fun throwback to books of your youth.  I found it a great way to compare/contrast how the young-adult market has changed and warped over the last forty years into the huge market it is today…and fortunately Duncan didn’t follow it with I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (unlike the films).

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Related Links:

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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