Diana Urban is an author that I’ve read and enjoyed before, so I knew I had to check this one out. Her last book contained some twists that I did not expect, and plot-wise this one really intrigued me. I was lucky to get an e-arc of this book last year, and with it finally being out in February, it was time for me to get to it.
This book follows Crystal, a gamer who has hopes of entering a tournament this weekend and winning the money that would help her family. But after dropping her sister off at school, she receives a message on a mysterious app telling her that they have her sister and if she doesn’t play their game, they’re going to kill her. When the kidnapper’s games turn out to be deadly for her friends, Crystal tries to beat them at their own game and track down who it is.
I will say that this book is a little bit predictable. There are a lot of flashbacks to something that happened during their childhood, and it does make it very obvious who the killer is. But whereas in some thriller books that would put me off, I was still intrigued. I wanted to know how the story would turn out and to see whether I was right or not.
Character-wise, I wasn’t really a huge fan of anyone, but that actually worked for me. I felt for Crystal with what was going on. I loved how far she’d go to protect her sister. But she still wasn’t a hugely likeable person. She could be snappish and selfish. Okay, she was going through a lot, but in the flashbacks, you saw that she’s been this way for a long time. I did like Matty and Akira too. But Zoey, Dylan and Randall were all kinds of sucky. They all had their reasons, and some of you may feel a little more kindly towards them, but I really appreciate how much Urban has fleshed these characters out.
The flashback scenes were a little frustrating. At times it did feel like there were a few too many, but my biggest problem is how annoyed I am with what these characters did. I get that they were only 11 and that they thought things were fine. Kids at night who are worried about getting in trouble are bound to make mistakes. But they could have done something about it if they’d just told someone. I want to feel for them as I know they didn’t mean to do it. And their guilt is certainly getting to them now, but it’s kind of like….you could have done better.
In a lot of ways though, these issues were what made me want to read on. It wasn’t a hate-read. I actually really enjoyed it, but the way Urban twisted the tale and how dark parts of the story is just fascinating. I was up until 2am reading this book in one night. I couldn’t put it down, even though I’d only planned on reading up to 50% that night. Just one more chapter became my mantra, and then suddenly the book was over.
It’s really hard to put my thoughts into words. I enjoyed this book so much, yet the more I think about it, the more I was frustrated whilst reading it. I didn’t want to put it down, and I really enjoyed the focus on gaming, but at the same time… I’m wondering why I enjoyed it. It’s a weird one.
Still, if you’re looking for a YA thriller that you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from, then check this one out.
Title: These Deadly Games
Author: Diana Urban
Age Range: Young Adult
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: 1/2/22