The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom
If I were to describe this book in 3 words, it would be thus: edgy spy book. However, this book isn’t edgy in the sense that there’s a lot of suspense, but in that there are many controversial topics hidden within. In contrast with other spy novels that might have the characters sneaking through populated cities, doing cool spy-y stuff with cool spy tools, there are no such things here. Instead of being semi-science fiction like some spy books, this one is realistic fiction- it does its best to present the problems of the world, since the main character isn’t using cool tools to solve all her problems, but is an ordinary girl with only some martial arts training. She wanders through the slums of cities, finding the people who are forced to do unscrupulous things to survive. This is no hero book- rather it is the journey of a girl who is forced to give up her innocence to rescue her father. Untrusting of the government, which promised to rescue her father, she takes it into her own hands, but she has no idea of the journey that she’s getting into. If you want to read a spy book about a cool hero uses his smarts and skills to solve all his problems in the populated cities, this isn’t for you. Rather, this is for those who want to read a spy book about things that seem more realistic- about living in the slums and what happens there. There are no rainbow and unicorns here, but what would you expect from a book called The Cruelty?
Review by Lucas H.
Cruelty, a novel written by Scott Bergstrom, is a classic story of intrigue involving Gwendolyn, a teenage girl. Her father, who, unbeknownst to her, works for the FBI, went on a secret mission in Europe. Shortly after, he was declared missing, and Gwendolyn goes on a hunt for her father. After receiving hand-to-hand combat training, a fake identity, and travel documents from an Israeli agent named Yael, Gwen goes through three countries, manages to keep her false identity as a Russian girl, and topples a mafia gang before she finally rescues her father.
The story’s plot is well-woven in with the characterization of Gwendolyn. This is especially apparent in the emphasis placed on Gwendolyn’s change throughout the book, as she turns from a docile, innocent teenage girl to a hardened and gritty agent. This coming of age is one of the main themes in this book, as it gives Gwen the courage and skill needed to rescue her father. The author also manages to move the plot really quickly without confusing the reader. The storyline traverses many different places, from Prague to Berlin, assumes multiple tones, from American girl to French agent to Russian spy, and involves a host of different sidekicks and villains. However, the whole time I was reading the book, I never got lost in the details.
The story also contains a nice plot twist in the end. Just when the reader thinks it’s over after Gwendolyn’s rescue of her father, CIA agent Carlisle, the supposed investigator in the rescue operation, turns out to be a spy and captures Gwendolyn. This first surprise is followed by a second when Gwen is saved by a policewoman who shoots Carlisle and reveals herself as Yael. These two twists gives the book extra kick and flavor by bringing back characters who had long ago disappeared from Gwen’s adventures. They reassert themselves in a whole new way for a stunning finale.
Thus, for having a great plot that ended with a bang, I rate this novel a 4 out of 5.
Review by Adam T.