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Recommended Reading: Teen Fiction - Deadly Games

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

Deadly games - an all-familiar trope for horror and thriller fans. Think of the classics - The Running Man by Richard Bachman and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson - and some newer ones - The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and The Maze Runner by James Dashner - there is a game in each of these books, and inevitably, someone will die. Readers love the anticipation and the thrill that accompanies lethal games (in fiction works, of course). So this month, we've put together a list of a few lesser-known teen books published in the last couple of years that deal with dangerous games and brave protagonists. Some of the books include magic, and some have dragons, but all of them will have you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for what happens next.

Titles were chosen by Ellie Epperson, Youth Services Supervisor.

Cover photo of Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay

Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay

The new virtual reality show does what its name implies - CUTS OFF participants from the rest of the world. A group of teenagers volunteers to be part of the hit show Cut Off, each for unique reasons, where they are placed out in the wilderness, far from human habitation. But the game isn't too dangerous - if it becomes too much for a contestant, they can "tap out," and the last one left gets a big cash prize. However, this game round proves to be a little different from previous iterations of the game. When communication with the game show hosts goes dark, the four remaining contestants must find a way to trust each other if they want to survive this now deadly game.

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess (House of Dragons Series #1)

In House of Dragons, the game in question is slightly different from a traditional game. The five great houses of Etrusia have a tradition - when the Emperor dies, one person from each house is selected to compete for the throne. Usually, the chosen person is the oldest child in the house, one trained to compete in the "glorious Trial." Of course, this time, the elements are just a tad different. Five outcasts from each house have been chosen to compete, and the book alternates between their viewpoints, giving readers a look into each character's mind. Basilisks, dragons, and other mythical creatures abound in this world, creating unique challenges for the contestants. Only one person can sit on the throne - who will it be?

Book Two: War of Dragons is scheduled for publication in May 2022!

Cover photo of Caster, Woman with her hand palm out toward camera.

Caster by Elsie Chapman (Caster Series #1)

Magic is addicting but also extremely deadly. Aza Wu is well aware of this, especially since her sister, Shire, died while casting spells. Besides, magic is illegal, so Aza is better off just leaving it alone, right? But nothing is ever that simple. Aza and her parents operate a teahouse in Lotusland and must pay off the local gang to keep the family business running. Money is already tight, so when Aza receives an invitation that could get her some more cash she takes the offer. She doesn't realize that by doing so, she has entered a deadly magic tournament with real-life, scary consequences. She manages to keep it secret from her parents, but they start to worry when they notice wounds on their surviving daughter. With the gang on their backs for payment, an ongoing police investigation into Shire's death, and the casting tournament, Aza desperately fights for her life - but first, she must decide what's more deadly, magic or the truth.

Like this book? Check out book two, Spell Starter.

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Small town, nothing to do, no prospects of moving away, sounds like a great place to be, right? The boredom proves too much for some, and thus the high-stakes game Panic is born. Graduating seniors of the local high school can compete in the game, but they must be brave, fearless even, to have a chance of winning. While the stakes are high, the payout is even higher.

Protagonist Heather finds herself competing in the game, even though she thought she never would. But now, she has something to fight for.

Dodge has always known he'd compete in the game. He has a secret that fuels him, one he knows will see him through to the end.

Both Heather and Dodge have their reasons for competing in the game, and as they do, they will discover so much more than they bargained for.

Cover photo of Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz (Blazewrath Series #1)

Ever since she can remember, Lana has dreamed of representing her home country of Puerto Rico in the Blazewrath World Cup. In this sports championship, 16 countries send a dragon and its rider to represent them in a savage relay. And this is Lana's year to shine, the first year Puerto Rico is allowed to compete in the games. As Lana prepares to compete, she finds out that a former Blazewrath contestant has partnered with a legendary dragon, cursed to remain in human form, to end the World Cup. To save her beloved sport, compete in the world cup, and save the world's dragon sanctuaries, Lana must navigate through an international conspiracy that could prove more dangerous than her revered game. Like book one? Check out book two: Dragonblood Ring.

We hope you enjoyed this list. Do you have a favorite deadly games book or series? Let us know in the comments!

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