I have played two Escape Room games, and I have watched several horror movies centred around escape rooms going wrong, so when I saw that someone had the brilliant idea of writing a middle grade horror featuring an escape room, I knew I had to read it.
Following the standard opening to an escape room horror sub-genre (if I can call it that), 12 year old Ami arrives at the ultimate in escape rooms. Naturally no one from the organisation running it appears to greet her, though she finds a card with her name on the desk. Four other kids arrive, all complete strangers to each other, and then the game begins. In movies, this is the point when things start to go wrong, the participants quickly realise that they are partaking in a deadly game and that only one can survive… and then the characters are picked off one by one. For Ami and the other kids, a man appears on multiple large screens and tells them their mission is to save the world, and when a door opens, the kids rush off to the next room to start the game. It doesn’t take long before things start to go wrong. Can the kids work together to survive and complete the mission?
I was really intrigued to see how an escape room horror would be handled for middle grade. Did I really expect the characters to die off one by one? Do they? Well, you will have to read it for yourself to find out! I would say this book has a super premise, and while I found the characters fairly one-dimensional, the pace is good and the story compelling.
Until the resolution which I felt was a massive let down.
This book has been well received, and covers some popular topics (humanity’s only hope are children, human beings are destroying the planet, our future relies on AI), but unfortunately the story itself makes no sense. I was not surprised that the ending is somewhat of a cheat (though I hoped for something more original), but the reveal invalidates the whole story. I don’t want to give spoilers here, so suffice is to say the ending completely ruined my enjoyment of the book.
Of course, no book will please everyone and lots of other readers have loved the ending. Kids who like reading horror will likely enjoy the story. However TOTP and I give it a disappointed 6 out of 10 Diamonds.