Jambo! (that’s hello in Swahili). Its been a bit since I’ve posted and while I could make tons of excuses about where I’ve been, I figure it’ll be easier to just acknowledge it and move on…..right into today’s post about These Deadly Games from Diana Urban!
First off, amazing novel from this author. This was the first book I’d read from Ms. Urban, and it won’t be the last (I’ve got her debut in my cart as we speak). These Deadly Games combines the suspense of a kidnapping with the psychological aspect of the mid-2010’s film Shutter Island.
As much as I enjoyed this book, there are some warnings I’d like to give, reading is meant to be fun, not stressful, so take care of yourself first, beloved. TW include but are not limited to: gaslighting, parent w/alcoholism, domestic violence, kidnapping, doxxing, mention of disordered eating, death of characters, description of panic attacks, and description of anaphylactic shock. Now that you all know what you’re up against (unlike our MC), let’s get into it.
Our main character is Crystal, a 16 year old with a mom who works entirely too much to support her and her little sister, Caelyn. Crystal has some deeeeep seated guilt about the way things turned out between her parents, which is the cause of her mom working so much. She’s turned to an online game as a place of refuge with her friends and hopes to win the tournament that is approaching to use the prize money to help her mom.
Things are going just fine for Crystal until she and her younger sister have a small spat on the way to Crystal dropping her off for a school field trip. A few hours after the drop off, Crystal starts getting messages from someone called An0nym0us1 claiming that they’ve kidnapped Caelyn and will kill her if Crystal doesn’t comply with everything they say.
From the seemingly ludicrous task of baking brownies, to law-breaking ones like getting to a location that’s nearly an hour round trip AND BACK in less than half the time, Crystal is truly living the struggle life. Unfortunately, the “living” part can’t be said about all of our characters, RIP [redacted].
Overall, I think this was a solid read! Ms. Urban knows how to keep the reader interested in the fate of the character without having to hold our hands or spoon-feed information. I did enjoy watching Crystal solve the riddles and try to figure out a way around An0nym0us1’s rules, and the moment when the lightbulb came on for her….beautiful. Being a big fan of riddles and such myself…I actually arrived at the answer that [redacted] was behind it all quite a ways before the MC did.
If you’re like me and can’t get enough murder mysteries or books featuring riddles and clues and sleuthing, here are a few books I’ve read that have a similar feeling of satisfaction at the end are:
One of Us is Lying — Karen M. McManus
Think Breakfast Club but with a twist. The nerd comes up dead and the other 4 (the jock, the princess, the outlaw, and the perfectionist) are left holding the bag, only they’re each certain that they didn’t do it. These unlikely allies must work together to clear their names all while making sure that the secrets that died with the nerd stay dead.
Little White Lies — Jennifer Lynn Barnes
A girl from the wrong side of the tracks goes to stay with her grandmother for the summer and ends up participating in the local debutante pageant. While away from her home, she discovers more than just new friends and how to hold a tea cup…her no-good-deadbeat-dad has a name, and its not who she always thought it was.
The Inheritance Games — Jennifer Lynn Barnes
This trilogy features a girl who received a letter that makes her the beneficiary of an estate worth over half a million dollars…only problem is, she doesn’t know who the deceased is, and to inherit her, he disinherited his own grandsons. Oops.
The Cheerleaders — Kara Thomas
A few years back, a horrible mass death involving a few of the local town’s cheerleaders was all anyone could talk about. Til this day, the town still does not have a cheerleading squad, and every year, a memorial is held for the girls who lost their lives. One of those girls was the MC’s sister, and strangely enough, she doesn’t think any of this was an accident….
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Chiamaka and Devon are the only two Black kids at the prestigious Niveus Academy. Though they’re not friends (not even acquaintances) their paths are forced together by the anonymous Aces who is revealing their secrets to the entire student body…and some secrets could land both our MCs in some seriously hot water. Strap in for a mind-boggling trip through classism, racism, and a lil’ bit of Bullsh*t.
About the Author
Diana Urban is an author of dark, twisty thrillers, including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen) and These Deadly Games (Wednesday Books, 2022). When she’s not torturing fictional characters, she works in digital marketing for startups. She lives with her husband and cat in Boston and enjoys reading, playing video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance. Visit her online at dianaurban.com.
I was provided with an eARC of These Deadly Games (and a finished copy too) from Wednesday Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing in exchange for an honest review as a part of this tour. Receiving these materials in no way changed my opinion of the book or altered my response. These Deadly Games is due to release February 1st, 2022 and will be available wherever you buy books! My affiliate link to Bookshop is here, but feel free to use any retailer you prefer!