Set in the southern UK holiday destination of Cornwall, Ready or Not by Tracy Darnton is a captivatingly addictive YA thriller that will keep readers guessing until the crowning conclusion. The story follows ‘the Creekers’ – twins Kat and Charlie, siblings Matt and Jem and only-child Millie. The story is centred around the lives of these teenagers from three, united families whose ties stem from their parents’ university days. Every summer and New Year, the gang meet up at Creek House, Matt and Jem’s parents’ holiday home in Cornwall. One fateful summer, however, things go shockingly wrong during an innocent game of hide-and-seek. Everyone hides; however, one is left to seek at the game’s closure – flighty, beautiful, troubled Kat. After days of searching, no trace of her is found. As the novel unfolds, each of the Creekers reveals their own hidden thoughts and motivations that may have contributed to her disappearance. Will anyone reveal their secrets? Will Kat be found?
Tracy Darnton is no stranger to writing thriller novels for young adults. She is the author of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlisted book – The Truth About Lies (2018). Darnton also works as an Associate Lecturer in creative writing on the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. Her knowledge of how to draw readers in with her craft is evident in Ready or Not, her third YA thriller novel.
Whilst I enjoy reading adult thrillers, I’ve not read many of this genre targeted at the YA audience. As I am somewhat unfamiliar with books for this age-range, some of the themes explored seemed to be quite mature for the target audience. For instance, some of the sexual and alcohol references may be unsuitable for some readers (especially outside the UK where the drinking age is 21), however, this does not distract from the intrigue and interest of the novel as a whole. The varied timelines of events presented as the structure of the novel help the reader to slowly piece together their own predictions of what may have happened on that mysterious day. The clever weaving of the story through the eyes of each ‘Creeker’ begs the reader to ask – Who was Kat?
Ready or Not would be the perfect choice for YA readers who enjoy this genre, artistry at work exploring the interconnection of family lives and friendship. The shocking finale of this novel will leave readers reeling – a true white knuckle reading experience. This is the kind of novel that you read and instantly want to discuss with others. Darnton provides useful book club questions at the close of the book which could be used to prompt self-reflection or to stimulate book blether with others.
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