Form and Content
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a somber examination of responsibility and the effects of the Vietnam War on the youth who served in it. Narrative and dialogue are sober in style as each of the four teenagers involved in a hit-and-run accident searches his or her own conscience, examines the effects of the incident on other factors in their lives, and painfully learns the results of group actions. Tension and suspense build to a plot twist and the revelation of the avenger’s identity. Red herrings and suspicious characters keep readers guessing, although clues to the avenger’s motive and identity are planted throughout the skillfully crafted plot.
Lois Duncan hooks her readers on the first page with a suspenseful opening paragraph that hints of events to follow: “The note was there, lying beside her plate when she came down to breakfast. Later, when she thought back, she would remember it. Small. Plain. Her name and address hand-lettered in stark black print across the front of the envelope.” The seriousness of the matter and the setting are established at the outset. The author sets a troubled mood, provides basic information about characters and place in the story, and reveals something about Julie in particular and other characters in general. The plot contains two levels: the personal problem that the main characters must handle and the mystery that must also be solved.
This blend of morality and mystery features...
(The entire section is 596 words.)