Title: These Deadly Games
Author: Diana Urban
Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller
Published: February 1st, 2022 (Wednesday Books)
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.
Crystal Donovan receives a cryptic message on a mysterious app that appears on her phone that states that her little sister Caelyn has been kidnapped, and in order to keep her from being hurt and get her back, Crystal needs to play a game. The initial tasks seem random if risky, but soon enough Crystal starts to see a pattern between them – they are all aimed at severely harming, if not killing her closest friends and teammates for an upcoming gaming tournament. Unable to tell anyone the truth for fear of her sister’s safety, Crystal must play along with the increasingly deadly game and find a way to unmask the kidnapper before it’s too late.
After the stellar read that was All Your Twisted Secrets, I had very high standards for Diana Urban’s second novel, and I can safely say it managed to surpass them all. These Deadly Games was a fast paced read that will keep you on the edge of your seat and the nail biting tension makes it impossible to put down. This was the first thriller I’ve been tempted to skip forward in and check the ending, and if I was reading a physical copy, I just might have, it was that intense of a read. I was completely engrossed by this story right from page one and the unexpected and shocking twists keep things interesting throughout, making me wish I could read faster. This is the kind of book that would probably be amazing on audio, and I really want to try that out when I come back for a reread!
I feel like this is a pattern with the past three or four thrillers I’ve read, but the plot is the star of this book. Crystal was a good protagonist, but the ridiculous amount of pressure she was under for pretty much the entire story doesn’t make her very relatable, just a sympathetic one, and her reactions were certainly very natural. We see the other characters only through her POV and they didn’t really have enough depth for me to say if they were likeable or not.
The reason I took half a star off the rating is that when you take a minute to look past the riveting tension, a lot of the plot begins to look a little unrealistic, especially as Crystal doesn’t even stop to consider or verify any of the information the kidnapper is giving her. After all is said and done, it was a bit of a letdown to know that one simple phone call could have resolved the whole thing.
The reveal of who was behind everything was masterfully done, and while there were a few hints at who the kidnapper was, there were enough suspects thrown into the mix that nearly everyone looked suspicious at one point or another. The ending, I felt was semi-conclusive in that it certain has some potential for a sequel, but the main plot points were all resolved. I think it could be interesting to see where a sequel might go, and yet at the same time, the way this story wrapped up was a satisfactory conclusion by itself too. These Deadly Games was a riveting and suspenseful read and I can’t wait to see what this author writes next! Highly recommended for fans of this genre!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!