Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.
Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.
Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.
Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…
Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2016)
A high school senior camping trip turns into a survival nightmare when the group is targeted by a violent stalker.Separated by a flooding river, the participants’ initial plan is to camp overnight and reunite the following morning. But when Lebanese-American narrator Sera, “white trash” Lucas, black Jude, and Asian-American Emily wake up, they discover they’ve been drugged. Overnight their equipment, including an emergency GPS, was destroyed, and their teacher seems to be suffering from an overdose. More disturbingly, each student’s wrist has a Sharpie-drawn label: “Darling,” “Dangerous,” “Deceptive,” and “Damaged,” respectively. The situation exacerbates pre-existing tensions, and members immediately suspect one another. However, the gruesome discovery that the teacher and students on the other side of the river have likely been murdered brings a fragile unity to Sera’s group—motivating their attempted hike to safety. Complicating matters is Sera’s conflict about her attraction to Lucas, the classically misunderstood bad boy—a storyline that conveniently proves there’s always time for romance. Meanwhile, the killer plays cat and mouse with the teens, leading them off-course with traps and feeding them misinformation, effectively amping up the tension. The premise is exciting and the pacing effective, but the novel is unfortunately light on details of how the villain could have actually planned and executed the whole situation. Full of drama and suspicion for readers who can get past its credibility problem. (Thriller. 14-18)
School Library Journal (September 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-A school hiking trip turns deadly in Richards’s dark, contemporary stand-alone thriller. Participation in a hike through the West Virginia woods is mandatory for graduating high school seniors. Sera’s misery is compounded by Lucas, the crush she’s avoided. A flash flood strands the campers and their teachers Mr. Walker and Ms. Brighton on either side of a river. The next day, Sera wakes up from a drugged sleep, discovering evidence that the campers were attacked. Mr. Walker is found unconscious, and the campers are marked on their wrists: Jude, Deceptive; Emily, Damaged; Lucas, Dangerous; and Sera, Darling. Someone is targeting them for crimes, imagined or real, and they must work together to survive the hunt. Richards delivers a solid page-turner for readers who want to keep the lights on all night. With its predatory atmosphere, this book feels like The Breakfast Club folded into a Christopher Pike novel’s fight for survival. The characters’ ethnicities are refreshingly inclusive. However, the plot suffers from a weakness that holds it back from rising above average. The backstory behind the attack is based on a ghostly tale that readers are never sufficiently privy to, weakening the tension and at times causing actual confusion. The attacks are quite graphic and may be unsuitable for sensitive readers. VERDICT An enticing thriller that, despite some defects, remains a general purchase recommendation.-Jessica Bushore, formerly at Shelf Awareness, Xenia, OH
About the Author
Natalie D. Richards won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn’t dare do the dishes.) She later misplaced her writing dreams in a maze of cubicles and general office drudgery. Natalie never forgot about Barbara or those dishes, and eventually she found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. When she’s not writing or shopping her manuscripts, you can probably find her wading through the towers of dog-eared paperbacks that have taken over her bedroom.
Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband and their three children, who inspire her every day to stick with her dreams. Her website is www.nataliedrichards.com.
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