#NoEscape, a #MurderTrending Novel, by Gretchen McNeil [Review]

A group of geniuses attempt an elite escape room competition with unsurprisingly deadly results.

Author:  Gretchen McNeil

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Page Count: 352

Price: $17.99 US/$22.99 CAN

Publisher: Disney/Freeform

REA Reaction

#NoEscape was a young adult horror novel set in an elite escape room competition. Like so many stories with this backdrop, it presented a seemingly harmless escape room that turned out to have life-or-death stakes.

More than most escape-room-based stories, #NoEscape took some liberties. It was entertaining to read about a world-famous escape room company that required several employees to run each elaborate game. #NoEscape also portrayed escape rooms as much more oblique and frustrating than they actually are—and, obviously, more dangerous.

If you’re looking for an intellectual challenge, this is probably not the book for you. Despite the setting, #NoEscape didn’t offer much in the way of solve-along puzzles or Easter eggs for escape room players. It didn’t particularly feel like it was written by or for enthusiasts.

It’s just a straightforward thriller with quirky characters, plot twists and turns, and the occasional gruesome demise. If that sounds like fun to you, #NoEscape is a decent choice for your next casual weekend read.

The front cover of #NoEscape, with graphics depicting a chain with a skull padlock.

Who is this for?

  • Young adult horror buffs
  • Fans of the death game genre
  • People who’ve seen every escape room movie

Why play?

  • Diverse characters
  • Creative yet deadly challenges
  • Experience a world where escape rooms are as popular as video games

Story

As the first-ever player to win an “unbeatable” escape room, Persey is invited to compete with other escape room geniuses for a $10 million prize. When the escape room competition takes a dark turn, the contestants change their focus to getting out alive.

An epigraph reading "Our puzzle will be your undoing." —Derrick and Melinda Browne, Founders of Escape-Capades, LLC

Gameplay

#NoEscape was a standard novel, without opportunities to solve along as you read. The puzzles described in the book required context and outside knowledge held by the characters. The only way I could play along was by attempting to solve the central mystery before the book’s end.

Analysis

➕ The setting of #NoEscape was vivid and cinematic, and the characters were more diverse and colorful than in the average horror story. It was easy to imagine #NoEscape becoming the next escape-room-themed movie.

❓ #NoEscape took place in a fantastical world where escape rooms were popular enough to get reviewed by major entertainment websites. It was amusing to imagine a publicly traded escape room company putting on a competition with a $10 million prize. (Maybe someday.)

➖ The first few chapters set up escape rooms as claustrophobic and full of red herrings, with designers who try to confuse players and prevent them from winning. This felt like a disservice to the industry, as it might scare off readers who aren’t familiar with actual escape rooms (if the death traps hadn’t already.)

➕ The story structure and pacing flowed well. The flashbacks peppered throughout the story heightened the suspense and built up to a satisfying conclusion. #NoEscape also had more rereadability than most novels, since I could look back on the foreshadowing I’d missed after I finished reading.

❓#NoEscape is a young adult horror novel, and the writing style was suitably colloquial. Some readers may find this unsophisticated; others will appreciate the whimsy and relatable language.

➕ The in-room gamemaster was a highlight. I wouldn’t mind seeing an act like that in a real escape room someday.

Tips For Players

#NoEscape is a prequel in the #MurderTrending series, but it stands on its own as a separate story. You don’t need to read the other books first.

#NoEscape is a horror novel, so be aware that the plot includes descriptions of violent death. If that sounds like a good time, get comfy and enjoy the game.

Buy your copy of #NoEscape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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