*We received this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Crystal Donovan and her five best friends are all preparing for a tournament for MortalDusk, a videogame that could win them all a lot of money. But the Friday before the weekend tournament, Crystal gets a message from an anonymous person from a messenger app stating that they have her sister Caelyn and if Crystal doesn’t do exactly what they say, Caelyn will get killed.
Anonymous has created a timed game, giving Crystal strange instructions to complete in the allotted time…or else Caelyn will suffer the consequences. At first, the tasks are strange and seemingly harmless: make a prank phone call, bake brownies and take a math test from her teacher’s desk.
They seemed harmless, until one by one, Crystal’s five best friends: Zoey Bloom, Randall, Matty, Akira and Dylan start to face the consequences of these actions. Anonymous has a plan to pick off this friend group one by one, but for what reason? Crystal is desperate to try to find anonymous before it’s too late for her, her friends and her sister. Told over the course of a few days, Crystal’s dream tournament weekend quickly turns into a nightmare.
Wow, what did we just read? We requested These Deadly Games from NetGalley because we enjoyed Urban’s debut, All Your Twisted Secrets. Even though we enjoyed that book, the ending left us disappointed. We’re ecstatic to say that These Deadly Games did not disappoint us at all. It actually exceeded our expectations.
The beginning threw us for a loop because of the video game plot. We admit we’re not video game people at all, so we were nervous about that. However, it only took about 15 pages for Urban to completely hook us into the story. This YA thriller was literally nonstop and impossible to put down.
One thing we really enjoyed was that all the characters were morally gray. While we didn’t hate anyone, especially Crystal, they all did some questionable things that made the story so complex. It took us forever to realize if Crystal was an unreliable narrator or not.
The friends all had some baggage so any of them could have been behind what was happening…at first. We will say that we were so wrong about who anonymous was. Usually, we have a good idea, but Urban completely ripped out the rug from under us. These Deadly Games had the best kind of plot twist: one that we should have seen coming, but we completely missed.
The tension from start to finish kept us glued to the page. Crystal did not get a break for days and every chapter had more riddles, games and clues for us to figure out this sneaky puzzle. The only thing we will say is to pay attention because the small details matter.
One aspect we never expected was the last page. While Urban cleaned up all the loose ends, she left it open for a sequel. According to Goodreads, there are no plans for a sequel at the moment. But if Diana Urban is reading this, we would read a sequel in a second.
Overall, if you love dark YA thrillers and challenging puzzles, pick up These Deadly Games when it releases February 1, 2022. You won’t regret it!