Title: Never Coming Home
Author: Kate Williams
Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller
Published: June 21st, 2022 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: Everyone knows Unknown Island – it’s the world’s most exclusive destination. Think white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and luxury accommodations. Plus, it’s invite only, no one over twenty-one allowed, and it’s absolutely free. Who wouldn’t want to go?
After launching with a showstopping viral marketing campaign, the whole world is watching as the mysterious resort opens its doors to the First Ten, the ten elite influencers specifically chosen to be the first to experience everything Unknown Island has to offer. You know them. There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.
What they don’t know is that they weren’t invited to Unknown Island for their following – they were invited for their secrets. Everyone is hiding a deadly one, and it looks like someone’s decided it’s payback time. Unknown Island isn’t a vacation, it’s a trap. And it’s beginning to look like the First Ten – no matter how influential – are never coming home.
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen Canada, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ten famous influencers are invited to the exclusive opening of Unknown Island, an all expenses paid private resort, seemingly chosen to have an eclectic mix of personalities after the owners run a marketing campaign that goes viral. But their selection is not coincidental at all and each of them has something to hide. When they arrive on the island, it quickly becomes clear that something is not quite right about the place and it is nothing like the luxurious retreat they have been promised – instead, it is a trap that someone has laid with the intention that none of them ever leave.
Never Coming Home was like a contemporary take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The story spares no time in getting started as from the moment the group arrives on the island, they begin to notice things are off, and things just go downhill for them from there. This is something I really appreciate in books of this genre as it sets the mood early on, leaving things like world building, location and the bulk of information about the characters to be revealed as the story progresses. The breakneck pace of this story kind of surprised me as I thought from the sound of the synopsis that this might be a slightly slower kind of thriller that would take its time unfolding for maximum scary vibes. However, the pace worked well for this narrative, and it also fit given that the entire story takes place over less than two days. There was also some interesting commentary about the darker side of social media and the negative effects comments from haters can bring.
What was really interesting about this story was that every character had a POV, albeit third person, which meant that once it became clear that the group of influencers were the only ones on the island, the pool of suspects was just them. And yet it was so hard to find even a hint of who it might be. Despite the relatively short page count and fast pacing, the characters were very well written and distinctive, and it was easy to remember each of their backgrounds and motivations. I wouldn’t say any of them were likeable per se, but they were all extremely engaging characters.
It did get a bit gory at times, so I would add a warning for some disturbing content. Apart from that, the only other thing that struck me was that this premise was a bit unrealistic when you consider the characters were all between 16 and 20 years old, and famous social media influencers or not, they are still more or less kids and that they would all accept an invitation to a remote island, however luxurious, with such minimal details was rather implausible.
I have to say hats off for such an unexpected ending. It turned out to be possibly the least suspicious person of the lot, and given previous events, someone whom I had crossed off the list of suspects ages ago. It was a little faster than I would have liked, and I’m not too sure about the way it was revealed – it does require some suspension of disbelief for this to work. Nonetheless, it was a very clever ending and I was quite impressed. Never Coming Home was a thrilling read that I simply could not put down and I would highly recommend it!
Never Coming Home releases on June 21st, 2022.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!