July/August 2023 Kids Indie Next List
“Squid Game meets Ready or Not in this brutal takedown of racism and classism! From every twist and turn to its satisfying conclusion, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page.”
— Brandy Herr, Arts & Letters Bookstore, Granbury, TX
“A brutally honest and haunting cautionary tale…exposing the lie that is meritocracy and the unrelenting toll that being a final girl takes. A bloody tale spun masterfully…a dark delight.” —Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, New York Times bestselling author of Ace of Spades
A Black teen desperate to regain her Ivy League acceptance enters an elite competition only to discover the stakes aren’t just high, they’re deadly, in this “spine-chilling thriller” (Publishers Weekly).
You must work twice as hard to get half as much.
Adina Walker has known this the entire time she’s been on scholarship at the prestigious Edgewater Academy—a school for the rich (and mostly white) upper class of New England. It’s why she works so hard to be perfect and above reproach, no matter what she must force beneath the surface. Even one slip can cost you everything.
And it does. One fight, one moment of lost control, leaves Adina blacklisted from her top choice Ivy League college and any other. Her only chance to regain the future she’s sacrificed everything for is the Finish, a high-stakes contest sponsored by Edgewater’s founding family in which twelve young, ambitious women with exceptional promise are selected to compete in three mysterious events: the Ride, the Raid, and the Royale. The winner will be granted entry into the fold of the Remington family, whose wealth and power can open any door.
But when she arrives at the Finish, Adina quickly gets the feeling that something isn’t quite right with both the Remingtons and her fellow competitors, and soon it becomes clear that this larger-than-life prize can only come at an even greater cost. Because the Finish’s stakes aren’t just make or break…they’re life and death.
Adina knows the deck is stacked against her—it always has been—so maybe the only way to survive their vicious games is for her to change the rules.
About the Author
Joelle Wellington grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where her childhood was spent wandering the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Her love of the written word led her to a BA in creative writing and international studies. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading and when she’s not doing that, she’s attempting to bake bread with varying degrees of success or strengthening her encyclopedia-like pop culture knowledge. She’s the author of Their Vicious Games and The Blonde Dies First.
* "A genre-bender that is part thriller, part horror, and part contemporary fiction with a splash of romance, this is a truly unique and creative story that teens will be unable to put down. The characters are nuanced and grow throughout the story, and the fast-paced action will keep teens guessing at what new horror might be just around the corner. But it’s the commentary on extreme wealth alongside subtle and outright racism and classism, that ensure that this story is not only relevant and timely but also one that will stick with readers long after the book’s dramatic final confrontation."
— School Library Journal, starred review
"Wellington doesn’t hold back in this explosive debut novel....Anyone desperate for a Hunger Games–esque adventure will devour this debut."
"A lethal thrill ride that will seduce you to the very end."
— Jarrod Shusterman and Sofía Lapuente, authors of Retro
"Debut author Wellington delivers a spine-chilling thriller."
— Publisher's Weekly
"In this debut thriller that calls to mind the Japanese dystopian film Battle Royale (2000) and the American horror film Ready or Not (2019)....Readers are rewarded with heart-stopping reveals. A twisty chronicle, filled with equal parts glory and gore, of an outlier who transforms into a modern “final girl.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Elegant prose and complex characters spin us through the lavish maze of the Remington Estate—a breeding ground of secrets, lies, and competition—in a richly woven thriller that explores the lengths one girl will go to succeed in a world of classism and corruption."
— Ryan Douglass, New York Times bestselling author of The Taking of Jake Livingston
"Fiendishly thrilling. Joelle Wellington's debut will shake you up and rock you to the core."
— Kit Frick, author of I Killed Zoe Spanos and The Reunion
“A fresh and daring debut with quick-witted prose, wild plot twists, and unflinching insights on power and privilege. An absolute thrill!”
— Jessica Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of They Wish They Were Us
“Wellington pens a brutally honest and haunting cautionary tale of what it means to survive in a world that wasn’t built for you, exposing the lie that is meritocracy and the unrelenting toll that being a final girl takes. A bloody tale spun masterfully, Their Vicious Games is a dark delight.”
— Faridah Abike-Iyimide, New York Times bestselling author of Ace of Spades