The Kill Factor

Scholastic/Chicken House. Apr. 2024. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781338891850.
Gr 9 Up–In a world where a person’s ability to pay bills and buy food is determined by their online “brand credits,” desperation abounds for those with no beauty or online charisma. Emerson will do anything to keep her brilliant, Deaf younger brother Kester safe and fed since their father doesn’t seem to care, but when a robbery at Emerson’s school turns into her arrest for arson and manslaughter, their outlook is bleak. Enter the Producer, with an offer she literally can’t refuse—join his game show along with 49 other contestants, competing in both physical challenges and popularity with viewers, or just go straight to prison. Losing means spending the rest of her life in solitary confinement. Win, though, and not only go free, but leave with enough brand credits to last a lifetime. From the first of six deadly games, it is clear that no one will be coming to save them, and the stakes are immense. Working together will only get them so far—there can only be one winner on Retribution Island. This fraught, high-octane thriller engages readers in psychological warfare from page one. No characters are safe, and there is little reprieve from the gruesome deaths and intensely suspenseful life-or-death situations. Beyond the surface, Oliver engages with elitism and the dehumanization social media and reality TV engender.
VERDICT An absolute bloody blast and a fantastic choice for readers looking for the horror of Adam Cesare's Clown in a Cornfield and the deadly single-winner competition of The Hunger Games.

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