These Deadly Games
Published February 1, 2022
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About These Deadly Games
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. And 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.
Author of ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, THESE DEADLY GAMES, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed.
I knew as soon as I started reading this book that it was going to be a tough one for me. It moves really quickly, and has a fairly large cast. Crystal and five of her close friends are on an esports team together preparing for a tournament game. Her mom and sister are important characters, plus a few other rivals and side characters. So there are a lot of moving parts to the story. I liked that.
What I found challenging, though, was connecting with Crystal. She seemed to have a lot of emotional contradictions. Sometimes conflicted characters– where they feel two opposing things simultaneously– are really gripping, but something about Crystal’s character just didn’t click with me. She blamed her mom for not getting help when her dad was abusing her, but blamed herself for her dad leaving.
Crystal had a conflict with one of her team members that didn’t really make sense to me, either. I didn’t really understand the stakes of the secret that Crystal and her friends kept from the past. I don’t know. The story didn’t hook me in the way that I wanted to.
I don’t know. Other than the character disconnect, I thought it was a pretty intense read, definitely something readers who like Karen McManus or R. L. Stine would like. THESE DEADLY GAMES reminded me a little bit of HOW WE FALL APART by Katie Zhao, so I think readers who enjoy those kinds of driven, fast-paced suspenseful stories will probably like this one a lot more than I did.
Content Notes for These Deadly Games
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Major characters are white. Crystal has panic attacks. One of her best friends is Asian American.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently.
Kissing between a boy and girl.
Some scenes reference Crystal’s dad beating her mom. More often they show Crystal noticing bruises on her mom’s body after a fight between her parents. Some video footage shows a girl tied up and being threatened or cut with a knife. Other situations of peril and serious accidents.
Crystal’s dad was an alcoholic, but he no longer lives with her family.
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