Their Vicious Games
Simon & Schuster
Published July 25, 2023
About Their Vicious Games
A Black teen desperate to regain her Ivy League acceptance enters an elite competition only to discover the stakes aren’t just high, they’re deadly, in this searing thriller that’s Ace of Spades meets Squid Game with a sprinkling of The Bachelor .
You must work twice as hard to get half as much.
Adina Walker has known this the entire time she’s been on scholarship at the prestigious Edgewater Academy—a school for the rich (and mostly white) upper class of New England. It’s why she works so hard to be perfect and above reproach, no matter what she must force beneath the surface. Even one slip can cost you everything.
And it does. One fight, one moment of lost control, leaves Adina blacklisted from her top choice Ivy League college and any other. Her only chance to regain the future she’s sacrificed everything for is the Finish, a high-stakes contest sponsored by Edgewater’s founding family in which twelve young, ambitious women with exceptional promise are selected to compete in three mysterious the Ride, the Raid, and the Royale. The winner will be granted entry into the fold of the Remington family, whose wealth and power can open any door.
But when she arrives at the Finish, Adina quickly gets the feeling that something isn’t quite right with both the Remingtons and her competition, and soon it becomes clear that this larger-than-life prize can only come at an even greater cost. Because the Finish’s stakes aren’t just make or break…they’re life and death.
Adina knows the deck is stacked against her—it always has been—so maybe the only way to survive their vicious games is for her to change the rules.
This book reads something like an upper-class LORD OF THE FLIES. At first, the girls committed to the game called the Finish believe it’s a week of puzzles and games. At the end, a powerful, well-connected, wealthy family grants the winner’s wish. Once the game begins, they learn they’ll be expected to play hard, sabotage one another, and even kill the other competitors.
At first, they seem reluctant. But as the game progresses and the stakes ratchet higher, it seems that Adina, who is determined to survive without killing anyone, maybe the only one unwilling to shed blood.
The pacing is quick, with challenges and social games often happening in back-to-back scenes. At times, the characters seemed a bit caricature-like. However, that exaggerated style lent itself well to the kind of twisted, psychologically on-edge story told here.
I liked Adina’s character and her determination to stay true to herself despite the chaos and danger around her. I also liked the way the romantic elements were handled in the book. If things had wrapped up neatly, I think it would have been unbelievable or too easy.
On the whole, I think readers looking for a dark, twisty game with a commentary on classism will find a lot to like in this book. Readers who enjoyed THE MARVELOUS by Claire Kann or TO BEST THE BOYS by Mary Weber will also want to check out THEIR VICIOUS GAMES.
Content Notes for Their Vicious Games
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Adina is Black. Her best friend is biracial. Another friend is Chinese and lives in Europe. Two minor characters (girls) are maybe in a secret relationship.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. In one scene, a boy and girl sleep in the same bed.
Several scenes show characters violently attacking one another. In one scene, a game of Simon Says turns torturous. The caller asks the players to slap each other and stab themselves with a fork.
Some characters (including Adina) drink alcohol. One character is rumored to drink too much and use recreational drugs. Adina finds a bag of weed on someone’s dresser.
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