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Never Coming Home by Kate Williams

Engaging characters, a remote tropical island setting, and a well-done and updated And Then There Were None story!

The buzz on social media was incredible: Unknown Island!, a luxury resort on a secret island located in the South Pacific, where everything is free and only for visitors under the age of 21! The tantalizing promotional video with its sand, surf, and beautiful teens went viral immediately. What’s more? Visitors applying for a trip had to be personally invited to the island. Unknown Island claimed they carefully curated who was invited each week to include the perfect mix of those who applied for the free week of paradise. And the names of the first ten attendees had finally been made public.

Unsurprisingly, the first lucky group of 10 was a mix of successful influencers with billions of followers combined. Oddly though, no actual “celebrities” were among them. But when the big day came and as the young guests arrived on the island, all their social media suddenly went dark. The only account chronicling the ‘soft opening’ was Unknown Island’s corporate account, and the posts were cryptic, dark, and bizarre in nature. The entire online world of social media watched and wondered, “What in the world was happening on Unknown Island?

Never Coming Home was creepy and tense! With the action coming so quickly, I was on the edge of my seat every moment, and I never knew for sure who was behind it all. Each character was a unique personality with a tragedy in their past. I appreciated that there were boys, girls, a transgender character, and later, a character still figuring out their sexuality. Not all were portrayed sympathetically either. I also appreciated that characters I initially liked were slowly revealed to be less than stellar individuals, and those I originally thought less of turned out to be better people. That kept me changing my opinion as to who was manipulating everything behind the scenes.

The island setting gave me a bit of a Lord of the Flies vibe as the story went on. The changeable weather increased the tension, too, making possible rescue a dim hope in the characters’ minds. And as I was never 100% sure the place was devoid of others, I was never wholly confident one of the guests was the murderer, so I was always a little off-balance.

I particularly enjoyed the social media foundation connecting all the characters – in their real lives, their “real” lives online, and in the public eye. That one character had a manager to help guide her content, spin events in her life to her advantage, and make lucrative financial deals for specialized content or “collabs” was fascinating. The continual need for the characters to adjust their content to control their narrative and brand rang true and was mind-boggling.

With its engaging characters, remote and creepy setting, and the freshened up And Then There Were None plot, I honestly didn’t want to put this book down. I recommend NEVER COMING HOME to readers who enjoy suspenseful YA fiction featuring intelligent, savvy characters, diverse backstories, and remote tropical island settings.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond.

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