TITLE: There’s No Way I’d Die First
AUTHOR: Lisa Springer
AGE RANGE: Young Adult
PUBLISHER: Delacorte Press
Debut author Lisa Springer delivers a spine-tingling contemporary horror that follows a scary-movie buff as she hosts an elaborate Halloween bash on her family’s estate but soon finds the festivities upended when she and her guests are forced to test their survival skills in a deadly party game.
Noelle Layne knows horror. Every trope, every warning sign, every survival tactic. She even leads a successful movie club dedicated to the genre. Thus, who better to throw the ultimate, most exclusive Halloween party on all of Long Island? And with the guest list including the coolest kids in her senior class, her popularity is bound to spike. Hopefully, enough to warrant an expansion into podcasting. Plus, the fact that attractive, singer-songwriter Archer Mitchell is coming is honestly the candy corn on top. Nothing is going to kill her party vibes.
Except…maybe the low-budget It clown she hires to lead a classic round of tag. He’s supposed to be terrifying, though in a comforting, nostalgic way. Instead, the guy is giving major creeps. But maybe Noelle’s just that good at hosting? Her confidence is immediately rocked when the night’s entertainment axes one of her guests. And he’s not done yet. If an evil, murderous clown thinks life is a game, then Noelle is ready to play. She’s been waiting a long time to prove that she’s a Final Girl.
I wanted to like this more than I did, but… UGHHHH I hated the characters and the writing and the twist in this book so much.
I try to be lenient with characters in YA books because I’m clearly not the target age for them anymore, but I don’t think any amount of leniency could make me stop rolling my eyes at these spoiled rich kids.
Our narrator is supposed to be really legit and we’re clearly intended to empathize with and enjoy her as a character, but she’s deep in the 1% and is so stuck in her own bubble that she’s literally running around dwelling on how she can ensure the best possible alibi and how guilty she’ll feel for shoving the new love of her life into the killer’s arms if it comes down to it. 💀 She thinks of herself as better than 90% of the side characters, but most of them were a lot more enjoyable than she was.
And then there’s the killer, who I could rant about for a while, but if I did, I’d have to spoiler-mark the whole review and I don’t like doing that. Instead, I’ll just say that I saw his motive coming a million miles away and kept hoping I was wrong, but… 💀
Oh! I have to mention the romance, too, and the fact that it shouldn’t have even been included in this book. One thing I liked about the story was how quickly it jumped into the gore and action, but that meant there wasn’t any room at all to build up these characters or make me care about any of them, which made the romance subplot feel unnecessary and forced. If you’re going to include this much romance in a horror novel, there needs to be an initial investment made into the buildup of the relationship, and that wasn’t happening here.
Finally, I have to rant a little about the endless pop culture references. I don’t mind references in books when they’re done well (one of my favorite books of all time is My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, who absolutely nailed those), but many of the ones made in this book were crammed in without fitting the context. At some point, it becomes less of a way to connect with the reader and more of a way to say “hey, look at how many popular horror movies and YA books I can name-drop in one book, wink!”
Of course, I have to throw in the disclaimer that the book isn’t all bad and it offers room to have some interesting conversations, like the intersectionality of privileges and disadvantages (i.e. how a cut-off white kid may still be looking at a brighter, easier future than a wealthy Black kid)… but sadly, those tidbits were overshadowed by what boiled down to an extremely unenjoyable slasher with mediocre writing, poor pacing, and a twist that feels sinister in all the wrong ways.
I read a final copy borrowed from the library, but for the sake of disclosure, I was also sent an early review copy by the author/publisher. All thoughts are honest and my own.
WARNINGS (click to expand):
violence, gore, murder, vomiting, defecation, torture, forced eating of non-food items, poison, stalking, racism, misogyny
Noelle is Black, multiple side characters are BIPOC, one side character is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns
— destiny ♥