Publisher: Freeform Books (Hardcover – 8 December 2020)
Series: #MurderTrending – Book 0 (prequel)
Length: 344 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Bestselling author Gretchen McNeil returns with another murderous young adult thriller with #NoEscape, a gripping and fantastic prequel to her amazing #MurderTrending series.
Gretchen McNeil is a fantastic author who specialises in amazing young adult novels with horror or suspense twists to them. She is probably best known for her Don’t Get Mad series of novels (which were adapted into the Netflix series, Get Even), and her 2012 novel Ten, which was turned into a Lifetime movie. Other works of McNeil include Possess, 3:59 and I’m not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, all of which sound like fun and entertaining reads. I am most familiar with McNeil due to her latest series of novels, the #MurderTrending books. This series started in 2018 with #MurderTrending, which followed a group of young felons, known as the Death Row Breakfast Club, who had to survive their brutal public execution on reality television. #MurderTrending was an extremely fun and thrilling book that not only presented an exciting narrative for a group of great character, but which also parodied society’s love for social media and reality television shows. McNeil followed up this first entry in the series with the sequel #MurderFunding, an awesome-sounding book that followed another deadly reality television show. While I really liked the sound of the second #MurderTrending novel, I did not get a chance to read it, although I might try to read it later this year. Her latest novel, #NoEscape, serves as a prequel to #MurderTrending and is set 20 years before the events of the first book.
Seventeen-year-old Persey has been beaten down her whole life by her abusive parents and her overachieving brother. While everyone considers her to be useless, Persey knows that there is one thing she is good at: escape rooms. After solving a supposedly unbeatable escape room, Persey is given a chance by the parent company, Escape-Capades Ltd, to compete in an elite escape room challenge with a multi-million-dollar reward for whoever wins it.
In desperate need of the money, Persey reluctantly accepts the invitation and is taken to the Escape-Capades headquarters in Las Vegas with several other gifted teen competitors, each with substantial escape room experience. Persey and the other participants are shocked when the challenge begins almost as soon as they arrive at the headquarters. Entering a series of elaborate rooms, the group are instructed to work together to succeed within the set time frames. While at first the challenges seem like normal escape room fare, it soon becomes apparent that something is off.
After one challenge that puts each contestant in mortal risk, they players are shocked when someone is killed in front of them. Convinced it was faked as part of the game, the escapees continue to advance until someone else is killed. As each room becomes more and more deadly, it becomes apparent that someone is out for blood and is determined to make the escapees suffer. Forced to solve a series of gruesome and bizarre puzzles to survive, Persey begins to realise that each of her fellow participants has a secret they would die to protect. Each contestant is related to each other in some way, and whoever is running the game is seeking vengeance. Can Persey and her new friends survive, or will they become the first victims of a sick killer with dangerous ambitions for the future?
In this latest novel, Gretchen McNeil has come up with an exceptional tale of manipulation and vengeance as the protagonist finds herself trapped in a series of deadly escape room with a group of unpredictable allies. This is an extremely fun and exciting novel that blends a tense situation, excellent characters and a series of clever twists to create a deeply compelling and highly addictive read. I read through this book in one night as I became deeply engrossed with the plot and couldn’t wait to see how the story unfolded. I love the idea of a group of teenagers caught in an escape room designed to expose secrets and kill its participants, and McNeil utilised her plot design to maximum effect, creating a dark and high-stakes read. The novel features a great collection of distinctive and fun characters, each of whom stand out in their own way and bring something different to the story while also bringing in some excellent drama with their conflicting personalities. The main protagonist and point-of-view character, Persey, is particularly intriguing, and the author spends significant time exploring her past, showing a series of flashbacks that highlighted her emotionally abusive parents and damaged brother. All of these characters have some major secrets, and McNeil cleverly weaves hints of them into the plot before they are eventually revealed. This book features a lot of excellent and cleverly written twists and turns, and while I was able to predict a good deal of them, it was still a lot of fun seeing them unfold and I was every taken by surprise with several major reveals. Overall, this is a fantastic and fast-paced narrative that readers will quickly become addicted to and which has an outstanding and powerful conclusion.
One of the major appeals of this book is that it serves as a great prequel to #MurderTrending and #MurderFunding. This makes it an opportunity to highlight the origins of some of the characters (mainly the antagonists) that appeared in the later books in the series. Fans of the series will really love the excellent way McNeil ties the narrative into the other #MurderTrending novels and there are a lot of clever and fun references scattered throughout this latest book. There is really no requirement for someone to read either of the other novels in the series first before trying out #NoEscape, and new readers will be able to easily enjoy this cool and exciting tale. Indeed, this novel could even serve as a fantastic entry point into the series, and I would definitely recommend that anyone who enjoyed #NoEscape should definitely read #MurderTrending next. I personally wish that I had read #MurderFunding first, as there were a couple of reveals that did not have as significant an impact on me as I think they were supposed to. Still, I had an outstanding time reading this latest book from McNeil and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. After getting hooked on this latest book, I might try and read #MurderFunding this year, especially if McNeil is planning any additional entries to this awesome series.
I really liked how McNeil utilised escape rooms in this novel, and it proves to be a fantastic setting for this amazing young adult thriller. The author has come up with a huge range of intriguing and clever challenges for her participants to try and overcome, and I loved seeing all the various riddles and puzzles. As the escape room continues, the rooms become more and more deadly, and it was quite fun to see all the unique and elaborate murder contraptions that the author imagines. Some of the challenges and the deaths in this book were really over the top, and it proved to be exhilarating and nerve-racking to watch the protagonists attempt to overcome them, especially when a particularly fun character’s life was on the line. McNeil also uses her novel to examine and somewhat parody the current escape room trend, with each of the characters being a major escape room user with a huge amount of enthusiasm for them. As a result, this ends up being a particularly fun read for anyone who has done an escape room in the past, although I can guarantee that you will be rather suspicious about the next challenge that you undertake. I had a lot of fun getting through these deadly escape rooms in the story and I cannot wait to see what McNeil uses as the major plot setting in her next novel.
Like the previous entries in this series, #NoEscape was written for a young adult audience and follows several teenage protagonists. This is excellent novel for teenage readers; I know I would have loved to read this when I was younger. I particularly liked how the author did not write down for a younger audience, instead presenting a detailed and complex tale, filled with intriguing characters, compelling story elements and several very dark sequences. I would say that, due to the sometimes gruesome content, this book is probably best read by older teenagers, especially those who have a love of escape rooms. This is also one of those young adult novels that can be easily enjoyed by adult readers, who will enjoy all the excitement and clever twists. There are also a huge number of cool pop culture references throughout the book that will prove appealing to readers of many different ages, as McNeil covers a massive range of different genres and forms of entertainment, ranging from classic horror movies (there is a great clue hidden in one reference that older readers will particularly enjoy), anime, professional wrestling, books and movies (I loved one of the character’s Harry Potter themed shirt; shame it got blood on it). Overall, this is a great young adult book, and I really appreciate the fact that McNeil has made it appealing to very wide audience.
#NoEscape is another fun and exciting young adult thriller from the amazing Gretchen McNeil. Serving as a fantastic prequel to #MurderTrending, this is a clever and captivating read that is really worth checking out. Readers are going to love this exhilarating and deadly narrative, and you are guaranteed to speed through this outstanding and thrilling novel in a very short amount of time. Highly recommend.