ARC Review: These Deadly Games by Diana Urban

Title: These Deadly Games

Author: Diana Urban

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: Thriller

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mention of anorexia, abuse, alcoholism, murder, death, kidnapping, child harm

Rating: ★★★★

Book Links: Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

Author of All Your Twisted Secrets, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, These Deadly Games, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions contained within are my own.

We all know that I’m a fantasy girl. I love escaping into magical worlds and getting lost in the lore. But my second favorite genre has to be all things spooky. Horror, mysteries, and especially thrillers. I don’t read them nearly enough, though, which is why I was so excited to get an e-ARC for These Deadly Games, a YA thriller that sounded right up my alley!

In this book, we follow a teenager named Crystal. Crystal’s life seems pretty mundane; the most excitement she gets is playing Mortal Dusk with her friends. They’re attempting to select their team to play in a local tournament and Crystal would do anything to claim her spot. Her life is thrown for a loop when she receives a message on a mysterious app showing her a picture of her little sister, tied up and gagged. The kidnapper tells her she can get her sister back… if she plays their game. If not? Her sister dies. But Crystal soon realizes that the games she is forced to play are hurting her friends and she must make a decision: keep playing or somehow fight back against this mysterious gamemaster.

This delivered so many things that I love about a good thriller! The pacing was excellent. It was fast enough that there was never a lag in the action, which makes sense as the game was all supposed to happen within a 24 hour period. But it didn’t move so fast that you’re left confused by what’s going on. It helps that there are chapters detailing past events that kind of slow the breakneck speed of events happening in the present day chapters. To be honest, I probably could have done with less of those chapters because they weren’t nearly as intriguing as what was happening, but I understand their purpose. Either way, Diana Urban’s writing, whether it’s in the past or present day chapters, was so thriller-perfect that it kept me engaged the entire time!

I will say, I had to remind myself over and over again that Crystal and her friends were all teenagers because, oh my god, some of the decisions these kids make 😂 Keep in mind, I’m almost 40 years old, so I’m most certainly not the target audience for YA and I understand that fictional teenagers have every right to be just as flawed as real teenagers. I’m also the kind of person that yells at characters in horror movies (in the comfort of my own home, mind you) because WHO GOES OUT INTO THE CREEPY WOODS TO INVESTIGATE MYSTERIOUS NOISES?!? So there were several moments in this book where the literal words, “What the f#$%, Crystal…” slipped out of my mouth. That being said, all her actions throughout this book, when I look back on them and am not caught up in the moment, were probably exactly how I would have reacted at her age if I were in her shoes. So good on Diana Urban for crafting such a flawed and nuanced character! Even if she frustrated me to no end.

Now, when it comes to the actual game in this book, I will admit I figured out who was behind everything pretty quickly. The game elements were interesting, though, and I was still surprised how the conflict ended! Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read that kept my interest throughout the story. Were parts of it predictable? Yes. But did I have a great time reading those parts, regardless? Yes! It’s certainly left me interested enough to pick up more books by this author.

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