Sunday, October 8, 2023

REVIEW: 14 Ways to Die (book) by Vincent Ralph

14 Ways to Die (originally published as Are You Watching? in the UK) is a YA thriller. I bought my copy new.


When Jess was 7, her mother became the Magpie Man's first victim. Since then, he's killed 12 others, and the police are no closer to finding him and giving his victims justice.

Jess, now 17, has a plan. She has applied to be part of a reality show that will involve her life and social media feed constantly being in the public eye. One day a week, it'll all be available live for whoever wants to watch, while the rest of the time she'll have to film her own daily life and provide it to her director to be edited into episodes for her viewing public. Jess is determined to use her time to remind everyone of the Magpie Man and his victims, and hopefully get people thinking about the people in their own lives, one of whom must surely be the killer.

Unfortunately, the Magpie Man is also watching, and he has his own thoughts about what Jess is doing.

Even with great big stacks of consent forms, this reality show came across like a giant legal nightmare, and I could never bring myself to fully believe in it, especially when Jess started getting threats and a new victim appeared. From what I could tell, Jess didn't even stick to the premise very well - there were so many moments that she was technically supposed to film but didn't (because filming them would have been stupid or would have scared off the people she wanted to talk to). The cameras were pretty much only on when it was convenient to the story for them to be.

Because it's the way of most mysteries/thrillers, I figured that the Magpie Man was someone Jess had at least a little contact with, and there weren't a whole lot of possibilities for who that might be. I came very close to correctly guessing the killer's identity due to one very dramatic event that suspiciously didn't come up as much later on as I would have expected it to.

This was definitely a quick read, but that and its short chapters didn't necessarily mean that it was fast-paced. Not a lot actually happened - the bulk of the book was devoted to Jess's grief over what her mother's murder had done to her family.


An author's note and a Q&A with the author.

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