I loved Squid Game. So I was shocked to read this book and discover that it actually filled the hole Squid Game left in me, complete with edge-of-your-seat “games” and subtly discussing important issues. I’ll have content warnings at the end of my review in case you don’t want to read them.
Thank you so much Wednesday Books for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Crystal thought that competing for a spot to enter in the biggest video game tourney with her best friends would be the hardest thing she’d have to do this weekend. But when she gets a video from someone called Anonymous1 holding a knife to her little sister’s throat, she has no choice but to agree to Anonymous1’s demands. And what do they want? “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”. As Crystal participates in a 24 hour race to play the games Anonymous1 has set our for her, she realizes that the games aren’t as harmless as they first appear. Does someone want to kill Crystal and her friends?
These Deadly Games is one of the most addicting, well-plotted thrillers I’ve ever read. It’s unique in its presentation, the characters are likable, and I found myself genuinely surprised by the ending. Diana Urban’s debut wasn’t bad but it is her sophomore novel that showcases her brilliant writing abilities to their full extent.
Crystal is an interesting main character. She’s clever and cares deeply for her little sister. On the other hand, this entire book is driven solely by her desperation to get her sister back. That means that we as readers don’t always agree with her decisions. However, I thought that both Crystal and this book were so well-written I actually couldn’t help but consider what would happen if I were in this situation. Would I make the same choices? And I mean sure, some of the things she does go a little bit too easily for her but that’s okay. I love how she and her whole friend group bonded over a video game. I love how we had gamer girls doing gamer things and no one was shaming them for it. And it’s a relatively diverse cast as well! There were a few moments where some racist remarks are made that are quickly shut down since Crystal’s best friend, Akira, is half-Japanese. Little moments like that really helped to flesh out the group that we don’t get a perspective from.
Anyways, this was a thrill ride from start to finish. Despite the fact that the title of this book is literally These Deadly Games, I wasn’t quite expecting just how dark it got. Some of what Anynomous1 told Crystal to do seemed innocent at first, and I couldn’t predict how terrible the endgame would be. This book is non-stop in its pace. Every time it seems like we get a breather, something new comes up and BAM! Back on that bullet train of death-defying games. My mind was theorizing whenever it got a chance but I still didn’t totally guess the ending.
Speaking of the ending…WOW. My heart was racing. There were so many twists and turns that even if I half-guessed one thing, it never played out the way I expected it to. I’m unsure if there’s going to be a sequel though? The last line especially felt a little bit open-ended. While there were a few moments throughout the story that had me rolling my eyes (y’all already know my thoughts on teenagers in thrillers) this is one of the most well-plotted books I’ve ever read. At this point, Diana Urban is on my list of favorite mystery/thriller authors, joining the ranks of Holly Jackson…and that’s it. That’s my list. It’s clearly very prestigious so if nothing else convinces you to read this book I hope that does.
So that’s it! Again, I hate going into too much detail with thrillers but I really don’t have anything bad to say about this one. A few cliche YA thriller moments couldn’t overcome the unique plot and perfect pace of These Deadly Games. Overall, I’d give this 5/5 stars. Tell me: are you excited for this one? You can preorder this one here and add it to Goodreads and Storygraph!
(Don’t read these if you like to go in blind!) CW/TW (according to the author on GR): death, violence, blood, panic attacks, domestic abuse, anorexia, racism, and grief. This comes out on February 22, 2022 and you can preorder this, or add it to Goodreads and Storygraph!