The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

The Blurb On The Back:

The girl who hunted …

Becomes the woman who hunts.

The anger her sprung from the terror I’ve lived with since the moment I found out my dad was taken.  This anger is the flip side, the counterpoint, the shouted answer to the terror’s question.  Asks the terror, what will become of me?  Answers the anger, this.

When her diplomat father is kidnapped, Gwendolyn seems to be the only one with the will and determination to find him.  As she follows a trail across Europe’s criminal underworld, she must relinquish her schoolgirl identity and face a terrifying truth about herself.

To overcome the cruelty she encounters, she must also embrace it.

Who will Gwendolyn become?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom is a diplobrat who has lived at various postings around the world with her stepfather (her mother was killed 10 years earlier in Algeria by an angry mob).  Fluent in several languages, including French, Russian and Spanish, she and her dad currently live in New York and Gwen goes to a private school that she hates.  The only good things in her life are gymnastics and her downstairs elderly neighbours, Bela and Lili who run a stationary shop.

Then her dad goes missing while in Paris for a meeting and Gwendolyn discovers that far from being a pen-pusher, he worked for the CIA who think he’s turned traitor.  When the CIA give up on finding him, Gwendolyn decides to do their job for them and with Bela and Lili’s help heads to Paris to find the last man he met.  But doing so brings her into contact with a shadowy world of spies and criminals and Gwendolyn finds herself changing in order to inhabit, both physically and emotionally until she hardly recognises the person she is becoming …

Scott Bergstrom’s controversial YA thriller (the first in a series) is a slickly written affair with plenty of action that reads like JASON BOURNE meets TAKEN but for all the author’s desires to produce a more “morally complicated” type of fiction, he doesn’t push any new boundaries here and the snide swipes at YA dystopia fiction are cheap and needless.  The main reason to read the book is Gwendolyn’s emotional journey as she becomes the person she needs to be to free her stepfather and the toll that takes – I thought it was well done and believable, especially Gwendolyn’s sadness at the things she’s done and must do in the future.  Also well handled are the action scenes, which are fast moving and dynamic and keep the plot going – even the obligatory training montage are enjoyable, mainly because of Yael (a grim Mossad operative who’s determined to push Gwendolyn as much as she can). The plot itself is not believable but then that’s not the point and it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment.  I don’t think that Bergstrom is doing anything new with this book – grey morality has featured in a lot of YA fiction, including those YA dystopian books that he takes a cheap pop at but there’s enough here for me to want to read the sequel.

THE CRUELTY was released in the United Kingdom on 9th February 2017.  Thanks to Walker Books for the ARC of this book.

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