The story centres around a girl called Skye, who is sent to a camp for troubled teenagers after her sister dies in an accident. However, once she is at the camp she starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister.
I'm thrilled to be a part of today's blog tour stop featuring my review and guest post from the author herself Sue Wallman, explaining why this book is important to her personally and what I found to be an inspiring yet emotional read that has taught me how precious life can be and how striving for your dreams is important...
"Pretty much all my life I've wanted to be an author. I went into magazine journalism and faffed about with fiction writing on the side. I tried and failed at chick lit and wrote a few short embarrassing-to-look-back-on stories for magazines, but I hadn't hit on what I really wanted to write. When my three children were little I went on an Arvon course called Starting To Write Your Novel. Most people love Arvon course. I found mine intimidating- it was too literary and everyone was very confident. Most people hadn't just started their novels, they'd completed them. What I was writing seemed amateur. Perhaps I was just sleep-deprived but I couldn't bring myself to write for a long time afterwards.
But I gradually returned to it and I was playing about with a few ideas when something happened. My sister was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and it was incurable. When I went to see her in hospital, three things were weighing heavily on her mind: not seeing her young sons grow up, worry about her husband not being able to cope, and sadness at never being able to go walking in Wales again. While I totally got the first two, the third would never have made it on my list. I told her that my sadness would be never having seriously tried to get published.
"It's a cliché but you must follow your dream," she said.
So I did. I discovered I loved writing in a teenage voice. I went to workshops and talks, became part of a writing group and joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. When my first manuscript was rejected I paid for an expensive but extremely helpful report from The Literary Consultancy. In fact there was so much wrong with my manuscript that I was advised to start a new book. I was picked off the slushpile by an agent with my next book, but dropped when she couldn't sell it. I met another agent at a writing festival and she stuck with me through more ups and downs (mainly downs)...and then a phone call...a two-book deal with Scholastic. A time-stretching, struggling-to-believe-it-moment.
I dedicated Lying About Last Summer to my sister. And here's the thing- she didn't die. She has a complicated medical picture but not cancer. She's seen her sons grow up, celebrated umpteen years with her husband, and she's been back walking in Wales. She's very different from me, and hates writing. But she absolutely gets my dream and I admire her for what she's faced, and how she picked up her life again, and faces with more compassion than most.
Lying About Last Summer centres around Skye and how she deals with her sisters death. The chapters jump from her being at Morely Hill, a bereavement camp where herself and other teenagers take part in different activities to help them mix with others who will understand and to exchange their stories. We then get drawn back to last summer when Skye's sister Luisa dies. What I found to be interesting here is how very different Skye was and how much had changed since her sister passed on.
Skye makes friends with Faye, Joe and Brandon who she builds a close relationship with and gave this story a hopeful outlook which was lovely.
This YA thriller really kept me going to the bitter end, and I found the second half to be fast-paced and simply impossible to put down where Skye becomes more paranoid of everyone around her at the activity camp, and comes to wonder if they're responsible in some way. What really made this book amazing is where I was having trouble trying to work it all out, and the outcome came so unexpected and for me that's what a thriller is all about!
A fantastic debut by Sue Wallman. It was engaging, exciting, brilliantly paced and what every thriller should be. I'm intrigued to see what she has in mind next.
Sue Wallman is a journalist who lives in London with her husband and three teenage daughters. In 2013 she won the Bailey's Women's Prize first chapter award judged by Rachel Joyce and Kate Mosse. Lying About Last Summer is her first novel.