Escape Room

Underlined. Jul. 2020. 224p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780593175941.
Gr 7-10–When Mint, Alissa, Sky, and Miles enter The Happy Family escape room, they find out that this “super-realistic” game is no game at all. Switching among the four teens’ perspectives, readers dip in and out of their lives. Ultimately their conflicting emotions, secrets, and poor choices become the real obstacle to their escape, as the culprit’s use of psychological and physical torture is minimal and feels unsuited to the intended targets. As a setting, the escape room is underutilized, rarely distinguishing itself from other locked room stories. The puzzles themselves reflect real-life scenarios, but after the facade drops, they play little role in the terror. The writing is quick-paced, straightforward, and unsubtle. Characters will slam their thoughts and feelings at readers in order to suit the story’s agenda. Plot points are well-established, but nothing will truly shock or surprise.
VERDICT Young teens who enjoy escape rooms may get a kick out of seeing this game turned into trap, but for those seeking deeper thrills, this light thriller will be less entertaining.

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