ARC Review: THESE DEADLY GAMES by Diana Urban

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on red on greyscale shilloutette of sixe people
Genre: Thriller
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Standalone


Book cover for THESE DEADLY GAMES: title in white on red around a greyscale shilloutette of 6 people

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THESE DEADLY GAMES is another fast-paced thriller about a group of fractured friends. It’s a complete mind-twister for who is behind it all, and why – not to mention if it’s real or not. I really liked the tension between wanting to save her sister and not harming her friends once she worked out what was behind the seemingly bizarre requests.

The pacing and writing are great, pulling you and making it hard to put down. The question is always “who is going to die?” because it’s made very clear early on that Diana Urban is not afraid to kill off characters. And with the friends’ life at stake as well as the sister’s…

They are really inventive “games” – the apparently harmless nature of some only makes the dangerous reveal of what they were for all the worse later on. It’s a twisted maze of horror, and the isolating aspect of it helps play into the first part of the ending. And it also uses social media to great effect, as the route through which the games come, turning the phones we all depend so much on into a villain.

Endings are hard, particularly with thrillers where the ending can really make or break the book. There’s the answer to who was behind it all, there’s whether justice is achieved (whatever justice means, which is another factor in play), and then there’s the tone to end on. So, naturally, endings are not going to work for everyone. This ending didn’t quite work for me, thanks to the very very end.

The ending was in two parts. I thought it was going to end where the penultimate chapter ended, that very unsettled note that leaves a lot of questions in the brain. I liked that ending, I liked the unfinished nature of it, the lack of justice and uncertainty. Then the next chapter came and sort of undid it all.

While I can see that the other might be too close to her debut, it felt too… coincidental and neat that it all happened like that, given how meticulously planned the rest of the plot had been to make Crystal doubt herself.

Read my reviews of other books by Diana Urban:


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