When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.
(I received this book from Feiwel and Friends for an honest review.)
Scott Bergstrom creates a string of mystery, thriller, family, and adventure all within a matter of a few sentences to draw in his readers.
The Cruelty initially gave me feelings of All Fall Down by Ally Carter, but The Cruelty is more complex than All Fall Down and leans more towards the underground crime aspect than spies. Gwendolyn Bloom gives an interesting perspective as a main character due to her wide knowledge of language and cultures from around the world. I fell in love with her constant struggle to feel like a normal teenager and being the daughter of diplomats who has traveled the world. Throughout the novel, Gwendolyn feels this struggle of not fitting in anywhere permanently. As she follows her father’s footsteps, however, Gwen begins to feel at home in her skin and her environment despite her crime-ridden living areas.
In the beginning of the novel, The Cruelty is paced slowly due to the need to set up the history and background of Gwendolyn’s life. After her father goes missing, then the action truly begins with the mystery and intrigue of a life many do not see. The end of the novel is phenomenal as well.
I hinted at the character development at the beginning of the review, but I really want to discuss it in more depth. Gwendolyn Bloom discovers herself after Yael, a spy who helps her train, develops her into a warrior. Yes, that’s right, a warrior. Gwen literally leaves herself and grows this being inside her that lives for the violence and crime of Gwen’s new life finding her missing father. The warrior inside Gwen is a great metaphor that talks about anybody finding their true passion and purpose in this life. Her purpose is to fight for her father and herself. The Cruelty leaves me searching for my very own purpose in life, no matter how minuscule it may be compared to Gwendolyn’s purpose. After Yael, the story continues to develop Gwen into a warrior, a manipulator, an actress, and much, much more. She does, after all, live in a world of crime.
Overall, The Cruelty gives readers a sense of belonging in a dirty, underground world and shines light on the culture in Europe for the wanderlust readers stuck in their hometowns.
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~