Title: These Deadly Games
Author: Diana Urban
Release Date: 1/2/2022
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 44
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Let’s play a game.
You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.
Are you ready?
When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.
But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…
As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.
This was everything I wanted it to be. Great set up, fantastic twists, not afraid to get dark when it needed to, fast paced enough to keep those pages turning, and some actual consequences for the actions of the teens involved, as well as a somewhat plausible villain. I really enjoyed reading this.
What I liked about this as there was minimal amount of ‘set-up’ before we launched into the twisting and turning elements of the plot. I also really liked just how despicable all the characters were. There were very few redeeming qualities about any of them and I think that’s what made this book really fun to read. It made the suspension of belief a little easier for some of the more outlandish plot elements as I really had no sympathy for most of those involved and instead somewhat relished in the game. The gaming overtones to the ‘worldbuilding’ also helped with this. Yes, some of the twists were predictable but they were nicely speckled in with the unexpected which made this a fun read.
The pacing of the book was also very well timed. We got some great mix of lulls and ‘safe’ moments mixed in with franticly paced moments of panic. They blended really nicely to keep the pages turning and to keep the reader engaged. The flashbacks were also interesting, but they were some of the more predictable moments in the plotline. They did signpost quite a lot for what was to come.
Overall, I felt this read very like the TV show version of Pretty Little Liars, but with far more Gaslighting (if that is even possible). It has that same popcorn munching, want to see what happens next as something new and even crazier is about to happen, kind of feel. I enjoyed it.