4 star, YA

ARC Review: These Deadly Games by Diana Urban

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. 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.



**These Deadly Games comes out February 1, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Fast paced, exhilarating and full of twisted games, These Deadly Games had me on the edge of my seat the whole time as we race with Crystal against the clock to save her sister.

This is Diana Urban’s second novel and I fell in love with this one even more than the first. Written in the same storytelling method I have come to expect from her, we are not given too much information about certain aspects of the protagonist and friends’ past that only slowly unfolds as we move forward in the present time. How this impacts the present day characterization of the main group of friends we are following is brilliant as it shaped who they each are.

Besides characterization, the mystery flows super well that it’s very hard to put down. Right from the get go, we know Crystal’s group is up for a gaming tournament with high chances of winning the team component. Is someone hunting them down one by one so they wouldn’t qualify for it? There are plenty of motives and suspects who may not want to see any of them succeed. Guessing who the culprit(s) may be was fun, though I will admit I had a sneaking suspicion who it was around the 50% mark, but that didn’t lessen how much fun it was to see it all being pieced together.

This book is also aptly named because, oh boy, those sure were some DEADLY games this unknown entity put Crystal through. What seemed like innocent enough gestures alone soon became separate ways that were hurting people she loved. And if the “truth” of these deadly acts came to light, all the evidence would point to Crystal alone, wouldn’t it? It was such a brilliantly devised plan and this evil mastermind had me applauding their, well, genius the whole way. They were so creative, and I have to praise Urban for devising up such things.

There was a lot to love about this book. I felt the secondary characters, all of Crystal’s gaming group, were unique enough although we don’t get to spend a lot of time with each since we really are just following Crystal during this 24 hour period. It also explored some of Crystal’s family life and the feelings she had about the dysfunction present there, along with her instinct to put her little sister above all else. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite give it a 5 star rating. I felt like it was just missing a “wow” factor, but that really could only be me since I might’ve guessed whodunnit rather early on.

However, how the ending wrapped up was pretty solid and amazing. I can’t give away much, but let me just say it made a lot of sense and still had me gripping my seat until the very last page. I think Urban couldn’t have written a better ending for this story with the perfect amount of allure and openness. It was definitely far better than the dumpster wreck ending of her debut.

I would definitely recommend you pick this one up when it comes out if you’re looking for a fast read that takes some turns you may not expect. These Deadly Games is sure to thrill and have you flipping through the pages to find out how it would all resolve.

Overall Recommendation:

These Deadly Games is a wonderful mystery/thriller that features a cunning mastermind tormenting Crystal and her friends on the weekend eve of a big gaming tournament they’re posed to win. Its fast-paced storytelling set in a 24 hour period as Crystal races against the clock to save her kidnapped sister had me rushing to get to the bottom of it. I enjoyed the characterizations of Crystal’s friend group, but particularly learning who Crystal was and the lengths she’d go to juggle the hardest decision she’d ever have to make: save her friends or her sister. The ending was spectacularly handled, although I kind of guessed who the mastermind was some time earlier. Overall this was a solid mystery but may have missed a little wow factor for me to reach 5-star. Diana Urban’s sophomore novel definitely set the bar and I look forward to seeing where she goes next because it’s only getting better!

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