Debut author Urban’s high-pressure revenge thriller puts a sinister twist on the escape room motif.
Amber is a recently popular high school senior who, after years of avoiding social entanglements, is suddenly thrust into the popular circle. Her musical ambitions lead her to team up with queen bee Sasha to compose the score for an upcoming school play. Though Sasha appears outwardly friendly, Amber slowly learns the machinations of the in crowd and the manipulation required to attain and maintain their social hierarchy. The story of Amber’s rise is told in flashbacks as she and a motley crew with tenuous ties try to escape from a terrifying room in which they have been commanded to kill one among them in order to save the rest. Each flashback provides clues to the relationships between and potential motives of each person locked in the death trap. Confusingly, relationships that are alluded to in the present never appear in the flashbacks, and other important plot elements seem thrown in after the fact by way of explanation rather than following logically from the preceding action. Though an unreliable narrator is to be expected, Amber’s character is nothing if not inconsistent, leaving the reader to question who the real bad guy is and if they have just been gaslighted yet again. Amber and Sasha are white; there is some diversity in the cast, but the portrayals lack substantive texture.
A mixed bag. (Mystery/thriller. 14-18)