When Hope Callahan receives an invitation to take risks that her cystic fibrosis—a chronic, fatal lung disease—denies her, she enters a life-or-death game of blackmail and dares.
Stuck at home sick for six weeks, Hope thinks the game (complete dangerous dares and win $100,000, or fail and be eliminated) will provide much-needed freedom from her mother's anxious hovering, not to mention money for the medications they can barely afford. Instead, she and four other contestants are blackmailed by the mysterious Society, which somehow knows their worst secrets. When Hope meets her fellow players, she highlights a horror trope—"the Bad Girl, the Smart Girl, the Rich Girl, the Sporty Girl, and the Sick Girl"—and their sketchy characterizations do little to contradict it. Two girls are of color; three, including Hope, appear to be white. Except for Hope's strongly depicted poverty and conflicted love for her mother and sister, the characters and New Orleans setting are merely game pieces. Without further dialogue or interaction to develop them, characters' expository tragic back stories arouse little sympathy, and since the girls' interactions with one another are largely limited to completing dares, their close friendship seems unlikely. Certain events seem to contradict the rules. The villain's motives are nothing new, and the villain's influence is unrealistically wide. A romantic rivalry lacks chemistry, and the cliffhanger ending lacks buildup.
Reminiscent of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars (2007)—readers looking for gossipy suspense should start there. (Thriller. 14-18)