Parents' Guide to

Cruel Summer

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Creepy abduction is the anchor of twisty teen mystery.

TV Freeform Drama 2021
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Kids say (11 ):

Dark, spooky, and compelling, this drama spools out its juicy twists so adroitly that viewers will find their sympathies swinging wildly from one character to the next. Is Jeanette a cold-blooded co-conspirator, or an innocent victim of circumstance who's been horribly misjudged? Is Kate's abduction as straightforward as it seems, and is her animosity towards Jeanette legit? What's the story with the simmering (but buried) conflict between these two teens' moms, and how did it impact Kate's ordeal? These mysteries and others pop along quickly, and the moment you think you have a handle on what happened, you're due for another revelation.

It helps that Cruel Summer's skipping-through-time format makes a chronology of events harder to construct. When we meet them in 1993, Kate is a high school queen and Jeanette's a wanna-be; by 1994, Kate's missing and Jeanette has seemingly taken her place in their high school's social circle; in 1995, Kate's grappling with the fallout of her experiences, while Jeanette's a pariah facing criminal charges. What happened in between each of the days we're allowed to view that pushed the narrative this way or that? You'll find out, but slowly, tantalizingly, and always in a way that makes you want to move on to the next episode immediately in a manner that might remind some viewers of the gripping first seasons of teen mysteries like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why. In other words: get ready for your next binge.

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