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These Deadly Games

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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.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 2022

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About the author

Diana Urban is an award-winning author of dark, twisty thrillers, including All Your Twisted Secrets, These Deadly Games, and Lying in the Deep coming 5/2/23 from Penguin Teen. (Get the preorder gift for Lying in the Deep here!) When she’s not torturing her fictional characters, she freelances in video game narrative writing. She lives with her husband and cat in Boston and enjoys reading, playing video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance. Connect with her on Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter.

(Diana doesn't use Goodreads, but you can contact her here.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 898 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.4k followers
January 31, 2022
these deadly games... more like these obnoxious games. lol.

this story is ‘need’ by joelle charbonneau mixed with ‘the dead list’ by jennifer armentrout. if you havent read these books, then you will probably find the plot of this exciting and jam-packed. but i have read them, so this felt pretty predictable and a little recycled to me.

but mainly, i just couldnt get on board with how ridiculous the story is. like, unrealistic to the nth degree. i mean, i knew it was going to be over-the-top based on the synopsis, but this is all kinds of absurd. and maybe its just me in my old age wanting a more realistic thriller, because im sure teens will have an easier time overlooking this and getting into it (but only if they can get past the highly unlikable and completely unrelatable characters).

so all in all, this was a miss for me personally, but i think thats largely because i know im not in the target demographic for this book. younger readers might find this fresh and engaging?

thanks for the ARC, st. martins press/wednesday books.

2 stars
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,791 followers
May 24, 2023
**3.5-stars rounded up**

Admittedly, most of Crystal Donavan's focus lately has been on the upcoming Mortal Dusk gaming tournament she will be competing in with her e-sports team.

So when her little sister, Caelyn, goes off on her one morning, accusing Crystal of only caring about her games, Crystal can't really offer up much of a defense.

Although Caelyn's harsh words sting, winning the tournament could literally change their lives. She's really doing it for her family. There's a lot of money on the line.

Nonetheless, dropping Caelyn at school for a weekend field trip, Crystal's heart aches thinking about her little sister feeling neglected. She needs to make it up to her.

A short while later, Crystal receives a jaw-dropping, cryptic message through a mysterious app that has suddenly appeared on her phone. It says Caelyn has been kidnapped and to get her back, Crystal needs to play a little game.

The message includes video of Caelyn bound, gagged and scared. Even though it hardly seems possible, Crystal knows this isn't a prank. It's very real.

The games begin immediately and as she struggles through, Crystal begins to see the connection. Every game seems to be aimed at harming those closest to her; her best friends and teammates.

What's worse, Crystal has to keep it a secret. The kidnapper has threatened to kill Caelyn if she tells anyone. Who could possibly hate Crystal enough to do this?

These Deadly Games is a wild ride. I am a huge fan of dangerous game tropes and this definitely didn't disappoint in that regard.

I couldn't believe how far this kidnapper was willing to go; what they were requesting of Crystal at times seemed impossible. I was at the edge of my seat, biting my nails, waiting to see what Crystal would choose to do at each turn in the road.

The narrative follows Crystal in the present, but also includes flashbacks from 5-years ago, to a traumatic event centered around Crystal and her friend group.

It's an event they have never really healed from. Could this current threat be connected to that?

I enjoyed learning about these characters and felt they were well developed. The core group of kids played well off of each other's personalities and I was definitely rooting for them to come out of this okay.

I also think Urban did a great job of including a wide range of potential suspects for the kidnapper. I feel like I suspected just about everyone at one point or another. I thought she executed that aspect of the suspense/build-up really well.

Additionally, I think the pace was really well done. The action kicks off fairly quickly and then the intensity builds steadily until the ultimate, explosive conclusion.

I definitely expect a sequel to this, although I have heard no official announcement of one yet. You better believe I will be snatching it up as soon as it is released!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I thought this was so much fun and would definitely recommend it to Readers who enjoy wildly-intense YA Thrillers!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,197 reviews40.6k followers
March 10, 2022
Wow! What a heart pounding cat-mouse game!

Crystal Donovan competes to win the annual Mortal Dusk Crown! Team prizes are $3 million! Only thing she needs to do work harder not be disqualified ( one of the six members has to go: the reward is only for team of five) and defeat her enemies wisely and brutally ! Don’t worry! This is just a freaking video game!

But this is not the only game she has to win! Somebody plays her a very dangerous game by sending the photos her sister gagged and bound. She’s only 24 hours to save her own sister’s life! She races against the time! If she breaks the rules, her sister will be dead, if she calls the police, she will die , if she tells her parents, the result will be same : she will never see her sister alive!

She’s assigned to finish bizarre tasks to play this dangerous game which seem harmless including stealing a test and hide it a locker, cooking brownies and making a prank call.

But as she sees her close circle friends die one by one, she realizes this game might be related with the incident haunted them five years ago!

Even though I was feeling like I’m reading a book in foreign language by getting lost in gaming terminology, I loved the author’s creative plot designing a mystery around video game competition with One of Us is lying meets I know what you did last summer premise!

And I enjoyed the conclusion of the book.

But I have still issues about development and characterization of the story which gave me hard to time to concentrate and get drawn into the mystery.

Firstly I didn’t like any of the characters and interestingly none of them like each other. They teamed up for competition but I have still questions why they teamed up if they hate the guts of each other so much at the first place when they have to compete for winning a huge amount of money.

And there were tons of twists which were foreseeable from miles away. I didn’t need to use my spider spidey senses to catch them. But unfortunately the characters were too slow to find out one of those. Waiting too long for declarations of revelations gets you out of your patience!

But overall: it was still intriguing concept, entertaining, fast paced, exciting action packed, twisty, unique read promising enough fun!

I’m giving my three solid stars but I have to admit I enjoyed this second book of the author more than her debut. Her writing skills get improved more at each of her works and I’m still looking forward to read her upcoming books!

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/ Wednesday Books for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for PamG.
816 reviews481 followers
October 2, 2021
These Deadly Games by Diana Urban is suspenseful, shocking, and pulls on your heart strings with a high stakes twisty story line. This young adult psychological thriller with a game trope is a standalone novel and the first book that I have read by this author. What a first sentence! Then a reader’s emotions settle when they realize what’s going on. But the calm doesn’t last long.

Sixteen-year-old Crystal Donovan gets a message on her phone during class wanting her to play a game. If she breaks the rules or tells anyone, her younger sister will die. Each task is meant to hurt someone important in her life. Will she play? Is it someone trying to take her team out of the upcoming state-wide gaming tournament? Or is something else motivating the kidnapper?

Crystal was not always a sympathetic protagonist, but she was under tremendous pressure that affected her relatability. She’s a character that causes readers to feel a lot of emotions and she can be irritating at times and evoke empathy at other times. Other than her sister Caelyn who was likable, the other characters didn’t have a lot of depth and were somewhat unlikeable.

There are several twists to the story, some predictable, while others are surprising. However, the earliest couple of tasks that Crystal needed to complete felt like they were solved too easily. While the writing brought to life the situation, I couldn’t tell that this was set in Vermont. It seems everyone has secrets. How do they play into the story? Who can be trusted? Who is the kidnapper?
The author drew me into the story immediately. There’s terror, chills, intrigue and cunning. In addition to this, other themes abound. These include anorexia, domestic abuse, friendship, gaming, guilt, grief, blackmail, panic attacks, fear, terrible mistakes and much more.

Overall, this book was creative, intense, impactful, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. The suspense, action, and twists kept me glued to the book. Readers that enjoy psychological thrillers and gaming will likely enjoy this novel.

St. Martin’s Press – Wednesday Books and Diana Urban provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for February 1, 2022.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
233 reviews221 followers
February 1, 2022
These Deadly Games is an addictive and high-stakes thriller perfect for YA readers.

Crystal Donovan is obsessed with playing MortalDusk with her friends. They have a big gaming tournament coming up in a few days that has a huge cash prize.

While sitting in class one morning, Crystal receives a video message of her sister bound and gagged with a caption asking if she’s ready to play a game.

The rules are simple. If she calls the police, her sister dies. If she tells anyone, her sister dies. If she doesn’t play, her sister dies.

At first, Crystal’s tasks seem a bit risky, but as she continues to play, she realizes they could be deadly. Soon, Crystal decides that she needs to outsmart this anonymous kidnapper in order to save her sister and protect her friends.

The majority of this YA thriller is fast-paced. I found some parts dragged, but it is mostly an edge-of-your-seat kind of read.

Crystal is a compelling character. Although, I did find myself getting annoyed slightly with her actions. She tended to get easily distracted. You’d think that her sole focus would be on finding her sister.

Some of the twists were predictable, but I still felt intrigued enough to find out how everything would turn out. And what an ending that was! Very satisfying.

I recommend this to readers who enjoy YA and YA thrillers. Those who primarily read “adult” fiction may find that this reads a little young.

3.5 stars rounded up.

Thank you to Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press for the arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Diana Urban.
Author 5 books1,187 followers
December 1, 2021
UPDATE 12/1/21: The preorder campaign is now live! Get your gift here.

These Deadly Games preorder gift

UPDATE 9/2/21: Now that ARCs are out in the world, a couple more notes:
- Content advisory: this book contains themes and/or mentions of
- The print ARCs (as well as eARCs downloaded prior to 8/8/21) are not the final version of the book. The eARCs downloaded after 8/8/21 from Netgalley or Edelweiss ARE the final version of the book. If you read a print or early eARC and are curious what changed, complete my contact form here, and I'd be happy to send you a short summary.

Original post:
AHHHHH! Thanks for adding THESE DEADLY GAMES to your TBR! I can't wait to share this story with you. 😈🥰 In the meantime, two notes:

Yes, there will be a preorder gift! The details are being finalized, but if you preorder from Trident Booksellers you'll get a bookmark, art print, character cards, and a necklace, and your copy will be signed/personalized. If you preorder anywhere else you'll get a signed bookplate, bookmark, and character cards. You can submit your receipt here!

If you want first dibs on ARCs of this book, you can join my street team here!

Thanks again, everyone! I'm so excited, and hope you are, too!
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,566 reviews1,871 followers
February 1, 2022
3.5 stars, rounded up

This is an engaging YA mystery that kept me turning pages until the exciting conclusion.

Crystal is part of a group of gamer friends rising in the ranks in order to compete in a tournament worth millions. During class, she gets a mysterious message with a video of her younger sister tied up. Crystal must follow the instructions given to her and play a sick game--or her sister will die. The tasks start off slowly, but increasingly become more sinister. Can Crystal figure out who is behind everything before it's too late?

I was thoroughly immersed in the story throughout, wondering who is behind this and why. It does gradually become pretty clear who might be responsible, but there are definitely some twists that keep things surprising and interesting. I didn't full buy into some things that happened, but overall this is a very fast-paced book sure to please those who enjoy YA mystery/thrillers.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,156 reviews1,516 followers
February 3, 2022
These Deadly Games by Diana Urban is a young adult thriller novel. The story in These Deadly Games is one that is told in the current timeline along with flashes back to past events in the protagonist’s life.

Crystal Donavan has become one of six top gamers in her area and has all her focus on making the five person team to play in an upcoming tournament with millions on the line. When Crystal is asked to drop her little sister off for a field trip she thinks nothing of it.

Later Crystal gets an ominous test message with an attachment showing her little sister tied up. The message, “Let’s play a game. You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies.” Of course Crystal will do anything to save her sister but what starts off seemingly random and bizarre only become that much more dangerous.

These Deadly Games by Diana Urban was a high octane thrill ride from start to finish mixing a bit of psychological games with physical danger. There’s a lot of books out there with parents searching for a missing child but this story takes a different route with a sibling upset and trying her best to win these demented games. Everyone is a suspect and I couldn’t have been more impatient to see what would come next. This was my first book by the author but certainly won’t be my last.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
March 16, 2022
2.5 Stars rounded up to 3

I can't say I ever warmed to the main character in this story. I found her to be single minded and oddly arrogant given the levels of stupidity she manages to achieve. A lot of suspension of disbelief is required to get through this novel as some of it bordered on preposterous. It was still, however, an entertaining mystery and I did not manage to predict the ending which is always exciting. An entertaining YA mystery.

Profile Image for Mallory.
1,120 reviews81 followers
February 4, 2022
This was an over the top, cheesy at times, fast paced thriller that did definitely entertain. Overall this one was a 3.5 star for me rounded down for star selection. Crystal is shocked when she receives a weird message through an app she doesn’t recognize that shows her sister tied up and being threatened. She’s forced to play a game and if she tells anyone or doesn’t follow the rules her sister will die. At first the tasks don’t seem too awful, but she quickly realizes that even tasks that seem innocent result in significant harm to her best friends. She tries to cooperate enough to keep her sister from being harmed while also trying to figure out who would be doing this to her. I did think the big reveals at the end were pretty predictable, but it was a fun story regardless.
Profile Image for Booktastically Amazing.
470 reviews389 followers
January 12, 2022
~👑Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!👑~

Are you telling me... this is a book where people die...
Because a person is being threatened and if they don't do the right things... people could die?
And those people are close to them?

*slow vicious smirk*

|Rating: 🎮🎮🎮🎮4.2

Oh, I knew I would like this.

It was a matter of knowing if I would like this in the 'I hate you, I hope you die' way or 'steal me away and make me yours'.
And this book fell somewhere in the middle.

In the 'what have you done to me, my mouth won't close' section of the fangirling scale.

So, the simple and effective gist (that I learned way too late) of enjoying this story is to know that a lot of things will appear silly at times.
The whole thing could've been probably resolved with a call, but to be honest, I probably would've sacrificed the entire human society to Tartarus if it ensured my family's safety.
Or, in this case, my nonexistent sister's safety.

And come on, how could I not like this book? People lives were in peril.
That did not come out right, but yeah.
My social meter is nonexistent, that's why I sound anti humans at the moment

Cutting open the flattering crime scene with the plot, I would really like to point out-
If the book were concentrated on the plot and only the plot, it would be an easy 4-5 stars.
The moments where my heart didn't know whether to pound or screech to a halt or perhaps learn to fly without wings really made me love how much I was sweating throughout this story.
The game aspect was incredibly well done, it made me invested in what was occurring. How everything was unfolding.

To this day, I have no idea how I could've ever guessed the plot twist, because what??? I repeat, WHAT???


I honestly had approximately 15 theories waiting to be proven wrong right, ranging from 'the dog did it' (there was no dog), to the 'neighbor's grandma's sister's cousin's uncle's pigeon did it' (I have a hatred for pigeons for the time being)

10% of the book, I was certain that it was all in the MC's head.
38%, I was sure the kidnapper was the mom.
78%, I was too addicted to the entire thing to truly try to figure out what was happening.
And 90% percent? I was getting a headache from the way certain puzzle pieces fit together so flawlessly that the cracks weren't even visible.

The fast pace also ensured that I would indeed read this book as soon as possible.
On page 20 perhaps, the foreboding tension was activated. Running circles around false accusations, unreliable narratives and people that I didn't know whether to trust.

That's one of the main aspects I love about well-done thrillers. They made me doubt my judgement, make me question if what's happening is real or not.

The unreliable narrator in this case being the sister of the 'kidnapped' girl. In her place, I would've run. I most likely would've broken down in a puddle of hopeless sobs and high-pitched whines, because when you break down, at least make it seem like an Oscar performance... right?

Anyhow, I can't fault the MC for making dumb decisions sometimes because me? Pfft, I would've gotten the number wrong on a mathematical riddle and bye bye sister, 'cause my memory is obliterated.

Things I adored about her: how she got up in spite of the pain.
How she was looking for the better way to get her people ahead.
Her sacrifices.
How she fought for her family, no matter what.
Even if it was against her friends.
Even if her friends were suspects as well.

Like dang, hold up- can you hear that? Those are my hopes for the genre of thrillers rising from the ashes.

The rest of the characters were good, but when I'm reading--speeding through-- a mystery/game/killerific novel I mainly focus on the acts not the whos if that makes sense. I focus on the action, the possibilities, the guessing (even though 5/5 I am utterly wrong)

I know that I didn't get attached to the characters, yet I didn't mind.
I even kinda laughed when someone died, but I promise I'm not insane

It's been sometime since a book has really made me feel a death, so I don't fault this one for not achieving so.
Why? Because it accomplished what I was craving. The 'on edge' moments, the situations that made me lean forward in extreme anticipation considering that-

t i
m e



And so it was. The tick-tock, the paranoia-

*yeets self into blankets in intense happiness*

This book truly satisfied my need for a decent YA thriller, and you have no idea how incredibly happy that makes me.

On a closing note, the plot was well though out--a little less informal that I thought it would be---, the characters were nice pawns to be shoved across the board of a deathly escapade, the pace kept me distracted of the woes of life and I loved it.
I squealed.
I gasped.
I slightly yelled at passerby (parents, because I don't go out) in bamboozlement because YO, HOW THE HECK, WHEN THE HECK, WHY DID THIS HAPPEN.
Relished their confusion.

Just like the book did with me.

*cracks knuckles gently across playing board*

Now that that's done...would you like to play a game?


I don't know what the heck just happened but I know that I liked it, would do it again and that 2022 reading is looking mighty fine right now.


Holy mother of piña coladas and cheesecakes, I got the ARC request accepted-


Imma go sob into my very warm pillow.
The other side is warm too, DANG IT
Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,053 reviews311 followers
December 4, 2021
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication date: Feb 1, 2022

Five years ago, Crystal Donovan and her friends played a game and one of their friends died. It was labeled an accident but only Crystal and her friends know the truth, and they’re not talking. Now, five years later, Crystal and her friends are gearing up to play in a video game competition, hoping to win big money. But Crystal’s plans are thwarted when she receives an anonymous text from an anonymous source, inviting her to play a different kind of game- a kind of game where if she breaks the rules or loses, her little sister dies. As Crystal tries to follow the rules and win the game, she has to keep the mysterious game and its designer a secret from everyone, including her friends and even the police, in order to save her sister’s life. But soon Crystal is in way over her head, and everyone, including herself, is in danger.

Diana Urban’s hip and edgy YA psychological thriller, “These Deadly Games” is modern and engaging, geared at the technology-obsessed YA reader. Fast paced and gripping, Urban pulls in a reader from the first page, and doesn’t let up.

Urban is a new author for me, although her two previous books have been YA hits, and I can see why. Urbans’ writing style is unique, her stories are creative and her characters are both relatable and likable. In “Deadly Games”, Crystal is playing a game far more sinister than any video game, as she battles her conscience and tries to free her sister.

I enjoyed Crystal as a character, and although her actions were the opposite of what I would do (as an “adult”), the actions of young Crystal made sense in the moment, from the perspective of a young teen. Her dysfunctional family background and a disastrous accident from her past compounded to make Crystal both likable and human, and I felt for her (and cheered for her) every step of the way.

The novel itself has some technical jargon, especially in the area of game apps, game development, and connectivity, but anyone with a basic knowledge of computers(or under the age of 30) would be able to understand it. As someone who does not fit into either category, these parts of the novel were not as complicated for me as I expected, although I was a little confused for brief moments.

“Games” flows well, and is a complete nail-biter (think “The Hunger Games” combined with “Nerve”) with Urban’s uniquely creative flair. With the right amount of twists and turns throughout, the ending is unexpected and delightfully suspenseful. Urban shows no signs of slowing down, and I eagerly anticipate her next work.
Profile Image for Mary.
1,474 reviews497 followers
February 8, 2022
It has been a minute since I've read a YA thriller and what a way to get back into them than with These Deadly Games by Diana Urban. This was a completely wild and fast-paced novel, and I don't think I saw any of the twists coming. I started and finished the audiobook on the same day and managed to listen to it in just a few hours and one sitting at that. Once you start you aren't going to want to put it down and while I did think the middle lagged just a little bit at times, the majority of this book is nonstop craziness. It was super fun and unique having the main character Crystal be a gamer, and I loved how smart she came across especially when it came to her clues. I was rereading the synopsis again and I think this is best to go into blind since it gives a decent amount of the plot away which no one wants.

The audiobook is narrated by Kate Rudd, and she was pretty dang incredible as Crystal. She managed to completely nail Crystal's emotion and panic throughout, and I couldn't have asked for a better narrator for this book. These Deadly Games brought up something I hadn't actually heard of before, and as crazy as it seemed it is apparently completely real. I can't say anything else for spoiler reasons, but I loved the inclusion of this from the author. I really enjoyed the end of the book, but it was a tad open-ended and makes me wonder if Urban will ever revisit these characters. I didn't really understand part of it, and it wouldn't be MY choice, but it does make you wonder. I will certainly be reading anything else Urban writes, and this is going to be an excellent choice for those of you who love YA thrillers with fast pacing.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,956 reviews485 followers
February 1, 2022
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.
A young teenage girl finds herself locked in a deadly game where her family and friends are threatened. Is it because of a video game contest or is there some other reason that she is keeping hidden?

Well, I fell into this suspense thriller YA book pretty darn fast. Even though I quickly had a developed a short list of suspects, I still wanted to figure out if Crystal would be able to save her sister and her self in the end. Not for the faint of the heart as twists and turns just explode on the page. I can certainly understand the hype that is already being generated around this book.

Expected Publication Date : 01/02/22
Goodreads Review: 18/01/22
Profile Image for Sandra Hoover.
1,176 reviews188 followers
March 11, 2022
A young teenage gamer finds herself playing a high stake life or death game with an unknown opponent in These Deadly Games. Crystal is vying for a spot on a five person team of high school gamers hoping to win millions in a tournament. Her chances are good, and she desperately needs the money to help her mother pay the rent after her father walked out. When Crystal opens a menacing message on an app, her world collapses around her. The message says, "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." The "she" the message speaks of is Crystal's younger sister, shown bound and gagged in the picture accompanying the message. Crystal already felt guilty for ignoring her sister for her gaming friends, and now she’s been kidnapped. She has to save her sister . . . but she has to play in that tournament. What choice does Crystal have? What would you do?

The games start off seemingly innocent with small, apparently benign directives. But as the game progresses, the stakes are raised, becoming hostile and threatening in nature. Crystal begins to notice bad things happening to some of her friends with each game she plays. Coincidence? Or are they connected?

Urban does a brilliant job controlling the pace and sinister tone of These Dangerous Games starting with an ill-boding opening that is sure to grab readers attention immediately. I found the plot line to be unique and yet quite fitting in today's world of young, obsessed gamers with their own gaming language which can be difficult for non-gamers to follow. As the story unfolds, the stakes continue to ramp up in this plot driven novel increasing the tension through a few twists and turns. The characters are the weakest link in this story as they feel a bit underdeveloped and come across as unlikable in most instances. And yet, for the age group, I think they are actually portrayed quite accurately so kudos to the author for staying true to the age group and story. While the ending is a bit predictable, it in no way lessens the enjoyment of this psychological thriller. Intense and twisted with a highly malicious atmosphere, many readers will find it hard to put These Dangerous Games down. Highly recommended to fans of young adult suspense thrillers.
3.5 Stars
Many thanks to Wednesday Books for an arc of this book.
Review published in Mystery & Suspense Magazine
Review posted at Cross My Heart Reviews
Profile Image for Sandra Uv.
1,046 reviews243 followers
November 8, 2022

De la autora ya había leído un libro suyo y muy de este estilo también, Uno debe morir, el cual me gustó bastante

🌹Pues este libro también me ha gustado muchísimo, ¡más que el otro!
🌹Es una novela que te mantiene en constante tensión y he decir que he sufrido bastante, incluso he llegado ha sentir agobio en algunas situaciones
🌹La autora consigue transmitir a la perfección la angustia que sufre la protagonista y es que...¡Menudo panorama! A mi me había dado un infarto ya en la primera prueba 😂
🌹La intriga es constante hasta el final
🌹Capítulos cortos que hacen que la lectura sea aún más amena
🌹Hay varios plot twist de esos que tanto nos gustan
🌹Es una historia muy visual y creo que funcionaría genial también como serie de TV o película
🌹Hay bastante crítica a ciertos temas muy importantes

Por otro lado...

🥀Lo único que no me ha convencido es el personaje principal. Me ha costado mucho congeniar con ella y mira que es fácil en una situación así...pero no me ha gustado como se ha comportado en muchas ocasiones y hay cosas que no me han parecido creíbles

Así que, en general, ha sido una historia que he disfrutado y me lo he pasado genial, aún sufriendo 😁 le he dado una nota de 4/5
Profile Image for jesslyn.
311 reviews236 followers
October 25, 2021
Huge thanks to Diana Urban herself for providing me with an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

I read All Your Twisted Secrets last year during the cusp of life as I know now *insert TM logo here* aka the pandemic. It was a highly addictive, stark debut for a YA mystery author. Though I had to admit, the ending left me with this gnawing unfulfilled feeling, the real triumph of All Your Twisted Secrets is that it keeps you going. Diana Urban has a clever insight and proficient storytelling skills and I have no doubts that she knows where she wants to take her story.

Whether you’ve read her debut or not, let me assure you that Diana Urban has not lost the swift charm and her distinctly acute twists that plants the seed of doubt on your mind. I am on exam week and it was a strenuous effort to put this book down.

These Deadly Games centers around Crystal Donovan, high school student caught in a twisted game. When she finds out that her younger sister, Caelyn, is being held hostage, Crystal is a bellicose girl on a warpath; participating in detrimental games that Crystal, at first, thought has one acceptable objective: taking her team out of the fast-approaching state-wide e-sports tournament. But she soon realizes that the killer might have been after the heels of something else.

These Deadly Games is an explosive sophomore book that deeply unsettles the readers like ancestral beliefs. Whether you like a game-based mystery stories or you are more in the logical part of the spectrum (like me), the book pulls you along on a feral goose chase for the killer, downing you headfirst into the waters of suspense and never lends a hand to help you to the shore until the very last page.

Some of the twists are rather predictable but I found myself shaping an O on my lips for the other twists that I could never see coming in a million miles. The plot is structured so crisply, never allowing the readers to take a breath and keeps them pointing fingers. Though the killer reveal disappointed me greatly, the experience and winding roads I took to get to the ending was a memorable one. The twists are unconventional, brilliant, and bold.

Other than the eponymous game, the book also explores several themes, and though some of these are not dissected in detail (much to my disappointment), I would argue that friendship is the theme that takes the grand entrance for this book.

Crystal isn’t a very endearing person to spend time with and it frustrated me that we had to spend the entire book in her head. I personally think she lacks miniscule details or character drive that would make her relatable and the gargantuan-sized compulsion she had to carry throughout the games were not enough to scratch even a hairline on my sympathy.

Bottom line, this book is such a creative effort and astonishingly flabbergasting, completely packaged with twists that coax you to keep going. Diana Urban has doubtlessly stepped up her craft and I can’t wait for the next story she has in store.
Profile Image for Kaya.
365 reviews62 followers
November 16, 2022
These Deadly Games is one of the most addicting, well-plotted thrillers I’ve ever read. It’s unique in its presentation, the characters are likable, and I found myself genuinely surprised by the ending. Diana Urban’s debut wasn’t bad but it is her sophomore novel that showcases her brilliant writing abilities to their full extent.

Crystal is an interesting main character. She’s clever and cares deeply for her little sister. On the other hand, this entire book is driven solely by her desperation to get her sister back. That means that we as readers don’t always agree with her decisions. However, I thought that both Crystal and this book were so well-written I actually couldn’t help but consider what would happen if I were in this situation. Would I make the same choices? And I mean sure, some of the things she does go a little bit too easily for her but that’s okay. I love how she and her whole friend group bonded over a video game. I love how we had gamer girls doing gamer things and no one was shaming them for it. And it’s a relatively diverse cast as well! There were a few moments where some racist remarks are made that are quickly shut down since Crystal’s best friend, Akira, is half-Japanese. Little moments like that really helped to flesh out the group that we don’t get a perspective from.

Anyways, this was a thrill ride from start to finish. Despite the fact that the title of this book is literally These Deadly Games, I wasn’t quite expecting just how dark it got. Some of what Anynomous1 told Crystal to do seemed innocent at first, and I couldn’t predict how terrible the endgame would be. This book is non-stop in its pace. Every time it seems like we get a breather, something new comes up and BAM! Back on that bullet train of death-defying games. My mind was theorizing whenever it got a chance but I still didn’t totally guess the ending.

Speaking of the ending…WOW. My heart was racing. There were so many twists and turns that even if I half-guessed one thing, it never played out the way I expected it to. I’m unsure if there’s going to be a sequel though? The last line especially felt a little bit open-ended. While there were a few moments throughout the story that had me rolling my eyes (y’all already know my thoughts on teenagers in thrillers) this is one of the most well-plotted books I’ve ever read. At this point, Diana Urban is on my list of favorite mystery/thriller authors, joining the ranks of Holly Jackson…and that’s it. That’s my list. It’s clearly very prestigious so if nothing else convinces you to read this book I hope that does.

So that’s it! Again, I hate going into too much detail with thrillers but I really don’t have anything bad to say about this one. A few cliche YA thriller moments couldn’t overcome the unique plot and perfect pace of These Deadly Games. Overall, I’d give this 5/5 stars.


i’m stressed but like…that was also one of the best YA thrillers i’ve ever read. thank you wednesday books for the e-arc and full rtc when my heart isn’t raging wildly. sequel when???


I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS!! I'm picky about YA mystery-thrillers but Diana Urban, Courtney Summers and Holly Jackson are my automatic go-to authors so needless to say, I'm hyped!
Profile Image for CYIReadBooks (Claire).
590 reviews87 followers
December 31, 2021
Whoa! That was some ride! These Deadly Games is a first person psychological thriller that focuses on the events surrounding Crystal Donovan. Crystal is a very talented video gamer who aspires to win a Mortal Dusk video game tournament. Crystal and her five other friends must vie for a position on a five member team to enter the Mortal Dusk video game competition. The ultimate prize being $3 million dollars. And split five ways that could still easily help her single mom pay for their mortgage and keep them afloat for a while. But there are sinister forces at work. Someone has threatened Crystal and is forcing her to play games within a 24-hour period or else her younger sister Caelyn will be eliminated for good.

Harmless at first, the games become increasingly sinister and eventually leads to mortal danger and death to Crystal’s teamates. Can Crystal outsmart the anonymous threat before time runs out? Crystal will need every ounce of her gaming and deductive reasoning skills to outsmart and thwart her anonymous opponent.

These Deadly Games is a helluva read! I was skeptical at first, so I dove in not expecting much. But, boy was I wrong. The character development isn’t quite there as the characters are not as deep or complex. But, hey, they are teenagers into gaming. What more can be said about that? Besides, the storyline is primarily plot driven, and what a plot it is.

Diana Urban has brilliantly composed a gripping YA psychological thriller that conjures up thoughts of gaslighting, and psychological warfare. There is enough action and plot twists that make this novel a sure page turner. Five unputdownable stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Profile Image for Rose.
264 reviews113 followers
October 4, 2021
I have just finished reading These Deadly Games by Diana Urban.

This book reads like a video game! This book is best suited for young adults. Crystal Donovan wants to win the Mortal Dusk Crown with large monetary stakes at hand, A cat and mouse storyline that is fast paced with some twists and turns at the end.

Thank you to Goodreads, Author Diana Urban and St. Martin's Press for my advanced copy to read and review.

Profile Image for ☆Kylie☆.
125 reviews
April 7, 2023
So... I will be the first to tell you I suck at reading mystery, I get so invested in the story I can never do a proper detective job.. In this book I knew what was happening at 40%... Like nope, I don't think it was my detective skills that improve overnight . This book is highly predictable on the top of being long. Maybe if this book was a shorter story I wouldn't mind discovering the whole plot at 40%, well to be more specific 37% and having to suffer all the rest because I wanted to make sure I wasn't overlooking something or that would be a plot twist, and I was right, disappointed but right... If you like a complex mystery, this is not the one.
Profile Image for Sabi.
741 reviews186 followers
September 16, 2022
I liked author's first book All Your Twisted Secrets better. Just didn't enjoy this one that much... 2.5 stars

The author can write but I think the story wasn't for me. It wasn't that thrilling. Still, if YA and two-day stories interest you, it would be a better fit for the reader.
Profile Image for Provin Martin.
241 reviews31 followers
February 10, 2023
An enjoyable fast paced YA read. If you enjoy online group games, you’ll like this book. The main character and her friends are all gamers. They are about to enter a tournament and prove how good they are to the world. But then they find themselves in a real life game - one where people will die.

This book was a real page turner and barely left me time to Breathe! If your looking for a weekend read, this one could be for you!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,844 reviews
February 8, 2022
3.5/5 stars

These Deadly Games is a Young Adult thriller set in Vermont.

The narrator is 16 year old Crystal (1st person POV).

She is part of a gaming team with her friends. They are going to the MortalDusk statewide tournament. And they have a great chance to win the huge monetary prize.

I found the e-sports/video game aspect to be very interesting. I know nothing about this so it was fun to read about it.

The main premise of the story is that something bad happens and Crystal is led on a high stakes mission. This was a very interesting idea. And I actually liked this part of the story.

The book had some interesting twists. It's an action-packed book. It did remind me a lot of One Of Us Is Lying. However, the part that I loved less was the middle. There is a fine line between a fun mystery and a deadly one that is less fun to read. I guess that the title should have clued me in. But I'd rather read about fun pranks vs someone actually trying to pick off all of the characters.

I did enjoy the two big reveals towards the end. But the actual end was just okay. Overall, this was a dark YA thriller with extremely deadly consequences.

Thanks to netgalley and Wednesday Books for allowing me to read this book.
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
997 reviews780 followers
January 25, 2022
A killer ride.

Crystal Donovan is a girl whose family is down on their luck. Her only hope of hanging onto life as she knows it is to win a gaming competition together with her friends. The only problem? The Mortal Dusk competition calls for five people. They have six.

But Crystal gets a threatening message through an app she doesn't recall installing on her phone. The competition becomes the least of her problems. Because Anonymous is threatening her sister's life unless she agrees to play their game. Only it's not a simple game, not really, because she soon realizes each act she commits has deadly consequences.

Crystal, however, is not a quitter. She is determined to win this game. All she has to do is play along with all the games she's forced into by a mysterious wack job, figure out who is threatening everyone she holds dear without her tormentor catching on, and try and find her sister before times run out. Simple right?

Except for secrets and past mistakes threaten to derail her every turn. And soon it becomes clear that Anonymous is far closer than they appear.

Despite knowing very little about the world of online gaming I found the use of it as a backdrop very entertaining. I am of course aware of the huge influence YouTube and Twitch have on the community, since I've heard of the platforms. Though I've never personally used Twitch.

I think the main issue with this book and why it didn't rate higher with me is that I didn't particularly love any of the characters. There were moments where a lot of them just weren't likable. And I think that comes back to their friendship. They're all supposed to be best friends yet there are so many unresolved issues between them all and so much jealousy that never got properly addressed until the very end.

The mystery, at least, was entertaining. It genuinely took me some time to start piecing things together. Though, to be fair, I don't read mysteries that often, so for a more experienced reader it might be far more predictable. And as with a lot of YA mystery, it does require a little suspension of disbelief because man so much of this hinged on perfect timing.

Overall, it was a fun, fast-paced, entertaining read that I did genuinely enjoy.

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/ Wednesday Books for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Raving Reads .
109 reviews54 followers
January 14, 2022
These Deadly Games is a young adult mystery-thriller novel that I could not put down. I came into this with high hopes due to Urban's past works and I was not disappointed.

Crystal receives a message on her phone of picture tied to a chair and the message reads she must complete these tasks to have her returned safely. The book then follows Crystal's journey on these tasks and whether or not she and her sister can make it out.

This book is fast paced and is filled with twists and turns. I recommend this to fans of YA mystery or thriller looking for a quick read.
Profile Image for Rachel the Page-Turner.
294 reviews5 followers
December 21, 2021
I normally steer clear of YA, because frankly, I’m too old for that shit. It always makes me want to shake the characters and say “YOU STUPID KIDS, DO YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT LIFE?!” … but this book sounded so good, I wanted to give it a shot. At the end, when one of the people the author thanked was Taylor Swift, I started to feel my age. 🤦🏼‍♀️

The actual story was as good as I hoped: a teenage girl’s little sister is kidnapped, and the kidnapper wants to “play a game”. If Crystal wants to get her sister back alive, she must follow the rules and do everything asked of her. This involves playing horrible and deadly pranks on her own friends, and soon Crystal is wondering if this is all because of an upcoming video game tournament.

That’s when my cynical mind butted in and wanted to remind the girl that if someone says NOT to go to the police, then that’s a good time to go to the police. If someone says NOT to tell your parents about a secret, then you definitely need to tell your parents. Speaking of, where were the parents during all of this? Several kids involved in a dangerous game and no parent sniffs out anything wrong?

If you can get over the idiocy of the teens and the very implausible plot (so, if you really like YA books) then this becomes quite the mystery. Even though I had an eyebrow raised, I still enjoyed it and got invested in the story. The ending was pretty shocking; it wasn’t anything I’d even considered. I’m giving this 3.5 stars, rounded up because when it comes to PG-13 YA thrillers and horrors, it’s more a matter of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

(Thank you to St. Martin’s Press, Diana Urban, and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.)
Profile Image for alaska.
235 reviews437 followers
May 11, 2022
i feel sick but idk if that is a good or a bad thing LMAO??

updated review:
This is by far the most terrifying book I've ever read, and I am someone who devours literal horror novels. Those who know me will realize after reading the synopsis that what happens to the main character is literally my worst nightmare, which influenced my reading experience... a lot.

I am never triggered by books but this one? Yeah, definitely scared me. After finishing it, I actually went to read a romcom for distraction...

It's hard for me to look at THESE DEADLY GAMES and give it an honest rating, because honestly? This is one of the most confusing reading experiences I've ever had.

Diana Urban's sophomore novel is amazing entertainment. Not in the fun way, but in the heart racing oh-my-god-I-need-to-turn-this-page way. I inhaled this book to the point where when it was over, I felt like I couldn't breathe anymore. It's terrifying and action-packed and addictive as hell.

But once the rush from reading fades away, I wonder what really is left of this book...

Either way, I'm definitely planning on picking up more by this author! She has a talent for sure, and this three stars are very positive ones!
Profile Image for Ojolisto Books.
153 reviews49 followers
January 18, 2023
Prometía mucho y ha quedado en un MEH como una catedral 😵

En breve reseña como dios manda, peeeero:

1. Chica streamer que controla las redes, la informática y los hackeos y luego le meten un troleo del quince igual que si se lo hiciesen a mi bisabuelo 🤨😅

2. Secuestran a tu hermana y te dicen que no le digas nada a nadie. La poli no existe dentro de su cabeza de streamer y lo más lógico para ella es seguir instrucciones en las que te acabas cargando hasta a Rita la Cantaora.

3. Se cuentan un montón de datos rocambolescos sin sentido que intentan justificar el intríngulis del libro.

4. Acabas queriendo que desaparezcan todos los personajes.

En fin, para mí ha sido una decepción total: misterio resuelto con prisas, sin sentido, actitudes absurdas que se podrían solucionar con una llamada de teléfono y personajes insulsos de los que olvidas al cerrar la última página.
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