Cover Image: Never Coming Home

Never Coming Home

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Never Coming Home by Kate M. Williams is a great young adult horror-mystery. It will appeal to the age group well as it is centered around a group of influencers invited to an exclusive private island.
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3.5 stars

Never Coming Home is another interesting new take on the social-media/influencer generation. This is not the first YA thriller I’ve read with influencer protagonists and a part of me is wondering if this is going to be the new trend in books about celebrities. We currently live in a society where hobbies basically no longer exist because there’s so much external pressure to monetize everything we enjoy doing. I think authors are trying to warn YA readers of this dangerous tendency with these types of books. I can’t even imagine what the younger teen generation is going through with how much their developmental years are constantly being recorded and put online for clicks.

The novel follows ten influencers who are invited to a remote island (called Unknown Island) for a promotional event. However, they quickly realize that something is horribly wrong when they are all accused of murder and begin dying off one-by-one. I’m a huge fan of these types of thriller novels/movies where you have to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth. They always make me want to create my very own murder board to write down all of the clues and backstories.

While the premise and story is extremely hooking, there were a few things that I thought could have been executed a bit better. The story is told in 3rd person, but switches POVs often. Because the entire novel is only 10 chapters long, each chapter switches POVs multiple times and is fairly lengthy. I’m personally not a fan of long chapters and with how many different POVs there are crammed into each one, it made it difficult to keep track of the characters. This is probably one of those novels where I would recommend keeping a personal list of everyone introduced because it can be easily to lose track of who is who. Of course, it gets easier as more and more people die off.

Additionally, anytime the author wanted the characters to come together as one big group, she made one of the women scream really loudly to get everyone’s attention. This made sense whenever a body was found, but these characters were screaming about literally anything. A new (totally normal non-gory) Instagram photo would be posted to the Unknown Island account and someone would let out a huge scream immediately instead of just, like, calling everyone to come over and look at it.

Lastly, the ending was probably my least favorite part. For a book that did such a good job at keeping the action going throughout, the final chapter was just a huge info dump to explain what happened. It was probably the most boring chapter in the entire book despite being the point where readers are finally about to uncover who is behind everything.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves whodunit thriller/mystery novels and is okay with a lot of murder (I love murder in novels so the large body count was 100% down my alley). There were a few parts where I thought things could have been done better, but I also know a lot of readers thoroughly enjoyed every part of it. I’d honestly love to see a film adaptation of this because I think it would work really well on-screen.
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Never Coming Home is a perfect summer read for teens looking for a thrill! A group of influencers are invited to an ultra-exclusive private island getaway opening and get way more than they bargained for. Kate Williams uses the backdrop of influencer culture to create a to-die-for cast. Teen readers will instantly see parallels to their favorite TikTokers and social stars. Every teen influencer seems perfect on the surface, but the deaths start piling up pretty quickly. 

Williams writes from ten different perspectives in this book and slowly reveals each character's true motives. It can feel like an overwhelming amount of characters at first but the action happens very quickly on the page and characters are taken out of rotation. 

Never Coming Home will keep you reading and guessing!
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(I was invited by NetGalley and Delacorte Press to review the ARC of Never Coming Home. This is my unbiased review.)

First of all... wow! When first diving into this influencer beach read I suspected it would be a slow read especially when reading the synopsis. I struggled with the question of whether I would be able to even finish the book because the first couple chapters really didn't capture my interest or help me connect with the characters. However, I carried on and thankfully I did. The book is a throat punch of a thriller with people dying left and right and no rhyme, reason, or explanation as to why. As soon as those pretty little envelopes are handed out that's when it all takes off.

Trust me you will want to be along for this ride and take the trip to Unknown Island. By the time I was on the last page my immediate comment and response was "well that was weird." Which is not shocking for me to say because well... I read a lot of weird, creepy, unusual, intense, uncomfortable, and disturbing books. This one is really in the top five of weird.

So yes it is a typical suspense, out to get you and get your revenge vibe. Those who sin must be punished sort of view right? Williams certainly makes that well known and hits the intent of Never Coming Home right on the head. In fact the book feels almost like Final Destination meets Social Media elite doomsday trip of all time. Some of the Social Media elite were dying to get to Unknown Island and well... yeah... those that made it there didn't make it out alive. 

The book focuses on the ten social media elite that were invited to Unknown Island. The special selected that were the First Ten to visit Unknown Island are :

Emma Jane Ohana from LA-18, billionaire financier’s spoiled rich girl, a true crime addict
Justice Wilson from Mission Hills, Kansas :17 years old environmental activist, the child overachiever and competitive family
Robby Wade from Atlanta, 17 years old restaurateur, chef, YouTuber, carrying his knife collection everywhere
Xander Lee from Carrollton, Texas, 19, old collage football star, new social media influencer, becoming famous with his shirtless dancing videos
Chelsea Quinn from LA, transgender, 18, old beauty YouTuber, reckless driver, obsessed with her selfies
Margot Bryant, 20, NY based CEO of the non-defunct SHEmail, business oriented, ambitious
Graham Hoffman, 19, from Minneapolis, old political organizer, nerdy, confused
Manny de La Cruz, 19, producer, DJ from Miami with dreams of being a powerful musician, carrying guilt like an armoire
Frankie Rushh, 18, social mega star from New York, most popular It-girl of the group with millions of followers
And Celia Young who is mousy, smartest, youngest video gamer of the group ( only 16) from Alameda/ California.

They are all there for a reason but not the reason they anticipate or expect. When those fancy envelopes come out to play the secrets start to be revealed and trust me readers, they are dark and they are deadly. 

Never Coming Home was a grab you by the throat and punch you in the stomachache ride. The countdown from 'Ten to One' is so intense but those last few pages are what really leave the readers in shock. Sure the ending gives you a taste of the reason and explanation for it all but does it really? The mastermind behind it all is far more twisted then any would have guessed. 

While I have never read anything by Kate M. Williams the raw intensity and visual brilliance of Never Coming Home hooked me. If you want a thriller that is your typical run of the mill that changes course then this is the book for you. Until next time, Happy Reading!
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Wow.  It took me a while to get into this book because there were so many characters at once, but once I did--wow.  A new extraordinary resort is opening on Unknown Island and ten teen "influencers" have been invited to be the first ones to experience the lavish resort.  It is a beautiful island that can be reached only by helicopters and one beach that is approachable by boat.  It seems to be too good to be true, and it is, because once the teens arrive there, they are trapped.  There are no amenities, and no wifi.  And it seems no one is going to leave alive.
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This was a total page-turner that I couldn't put down until I was finished! It had lots of plot intrigue, messy characters, and twists that readers won't see coming. Readers should note that it's extremely different from Kate's previous Babysitters Coven, so don't go into this one expecting something similar. 

As a librarian, I'm always looking for new horror novels for teens since it's the most popular genre at my library. So I will definitely be ordering this one for my library and I know it will be a huge hit with teens. 

I do want to address the diversity in this book. It has a diverse cast (queer, trans, Black, Latinx, Asian, etc.) which is awesome! But there were a few things about how this was handled that gave me pause [SPOILERS AHEAD]: 

-The very first character to be murdered was a trans woman. Now in a slasher book where ALOT of people are going to end up dead, it's not necessarily transphobic for this character to be one of them, BUT it felt off that she had to be the very first one to die. She was also portrayed as a pretty horrible person who had done something awful and was not at all remorseful. Again, there's no rule that every queer & trans character has to be a ray of sunshine (our community is a mixed bag just like any other!) but when the *only* trans character is portrayed this way and then immediately killed off, it just doesn't sit right for me as a queer reader.

-There was a character whose last name was "Ohana," which I felt like was intended to code her as Hawaiian, though her race/ethnicity was never mentioned. As someone who grew up in Hawai'i, I was surprised to see this used as a surname; it literally means "family" and I have never seen it as a name like that before. It kind of made me wonder if maybe the author wanted to code this character as Hawaiian and this was the only Hawaiian word she knew. Again, it just confused me and didn't sit right with me.

This was certainly an entertaining book and I did enjoy it, but the above points are some things that I'm not sure about.
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A very fun take on Agatha Christie's bleakest book! I read this in a couple of days and it was just a total creepy riot! 10/10 would recommend to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries. The one thing Williams understands that many authors who take this story on don't is how dark and shocking And Then There Were None really is, that's translated really well here.
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Never Coming Home by Kate M. Williams is a thriller about ten influencers who are invited to a secluded island resort.  But, when they get there, they are all alone; and they start dying one by one.  This book is a nod to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, and it was a lot of fun!  The reveal at the end was fascinating too.  Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital review copy.  All opinions are my own.
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Lifestyles of the influential...stranded on an island... hiding secrets... and paying with their lives. This story is a great quick read about a group of individuals invited to an exclusive island. The book draws you in from the very beginning. Williams presents a page-turner that keeps readers on the edges of their seats. It was amazing!
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It was about Unknown Island, a luxury island that you can only get to by invite and is totally free. The whole world is watching while the first 10 influencers are invited and arrive to experience this remote location. What they don’t know is why they were really invited, and what they all have in common. Everyone is hiding a deadly secret, and when the influencers start dying one by one, it starts to look like no one will survive this deadly vacation.

Thoughts: This book was a combination of teen And Then There Were None and Fyre Festival gone deadly. It did kind of seem like a rip-off of a classic book with a new and more modern twist. However, it was so much fun, and even though you have to completely suspend your belief, it is maximum entertainment. There were so many fun and unique characters and I liked the representation in this book. It was an interesting angle with the influencer aspect and I really enjoyed imagining this as a Fyre Festival-type situation.

This was a campy, teen slasher-type book with tons of creative deaths (bees, stabbing, overdose, suicide, guns, etc). I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ending was so wild there was no way to believe the theories. I think it works well for YA, but if you don’t have to have a believable ending, it will be a wild and entertaining ride. Even though I didn’t like the ending, I really liked the story and wasn’t bored for a minute. 4-stars.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC digital edition.

Unfortunately, I was unable to read this in the time allotted. It remains on my “to be read” list for the future.
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I really enjoyed this twist on a “locked room” thriller! I loved uncovering everyone’s secrets and the ending really threw me for a loop!
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OOOO. Y'all. Is this one heck of a thriller or what?! Seriously impressed me from the first page until the last. Excellent writing and the drama within this book was top notch. Must read!
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Never Coming Home is a fast-paced, twisting, dark tale about influence, murder, and secrets. Ten random influencers are chosen to be the first group to visit Unknown Island, the new exclusive way to travel. The premise of UI is that the team selects the group, invite only, and completely free, as a way to network and socialize with people you would never normally meet. So our group includes every type of influencer from tik tok stars, a famous chef, and a top twitch streamer, who all arrive expecting white sand and luxury but instead find murder. They discover the real reason they were invited had nothing to do with their popularity: they all have a secret, and now they have to face the consequences. But who could know all of their deadliest secrets? And who will they survive the island when bodies keep being found? 
I was very surprised by how dark this book was from the very beginning. The third person narration POV from each character was extremely raw and unfiltered showing the true nature of people clinging to their followings. A lot of the characters had unlikeable qualities and dark secrets and I loved that aspect: internet perfection uncovered. I have also always been a sucker for a stranded story, especially an island setting. If you like the show The Wilds, this book has similar vibes for sure. Think The Wilds meets And Then There Were None! I loved seeing the mystery unfold and the motive behind everything. “The beach read you have been dying for” definitely captures this story! I really enjoyed it. It was a little hard to remember the large cast at first, but the author did a good job of keeping them distinct and reminding the reader who each character was— The DJ, The CEO, The Politician…. Overall, it’s a very gripping story that touches on the very real darkness in current internet culture. I couldn’t stop reading.
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this book was giving fyre fest in all the best way. it's a great fast paced read. thank you for the arc!
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I really enjoyed this; great homage to Agatha Christie.  Though I kind of guessed who would be behind it early on, I did get swayed a couple of times from good red herrings. 

Loved the premise, plot and setting.
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Would you go to an unknown island with the understanding that all expenses are paid.  It is advertised that you can only visit if you are invited—no exceptions.  No one over 21 years old can be on the island.  Why?  Ten are invited and all reply yes.  There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.  They are all looking forward to this free vacation.  Only things aren’t exactly working out once on the island.  They wait in the heat to be picked up to go to the resort. But it doesn’t come for a long enough time that gets them sweating profusely.  Why the wait?  On the way to the resort each one is planning on what they will do when they are interviewed and photograph at the resort.  Before long they are surprised by the resort.  It appears to have no maids or chefs or waitresses or anything.  They do find snack food to eat but that’s it.  What happened to the people who worked ar the resort?  They watch as doors are put on the individual cottages that they will be staying in.  They are disappointed with the cottages.  Why?  Why have them go the resort when it is in such poor condition?  Will they find out?

The author has written a mind-bending thriller with unexpected twists and turns.  The author has explored the perils of fame and social media in the novel.  Besides the surprise moments and riveting tension, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel.  It’s a mystery that I won’t forget!  The novel shows how one can be caught up with their fame and social media which can actually be harmful in ways one wouldn’t think of.
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Ten influencers are selected to spend a week for free on the the secretive and buzzworthy "Unknown Island".  Set somewhere in the South Pacific, this island has only one way in and one way out.  What sounded like a great way to continue to gain followers and build their brands, ends up being a terrible situation for everyone as people start dying pretty quickly.  Deadly secrets are being kept and bodies are dropping fast which makes this a quick, fast paced read.  I found my stomach churning with some of the deaths and my brain spinning trying to figure out who was the mastermind and how the story was going to end.  Thank you negalley for this arc in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I was on the edge of my seat with this one. It reminded me of some offspring of the Fyre Festival and The Resort movie combined. I read this is only 1 day because it was fast paced and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with this ARC.


Description from NetGalley:
Everyone knows Unknown Island—it’s the world’s most exclusive destination. Think white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and luxury accommodations. Plus, it’s invite only, no one over twenty-one allowed, and it’s absolutely free. Who wouldn’t want to go?
 
The mysterious resort launched with a viral marketing campaign, and now the whole world is watching as the mysterious resort opens its doors to the First Ten, the ten elite influencers specifically chosen to be the first to experience everything Unknown Island has to offer. You know them. There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.
 
What they don’t know is that they weren’t invited to Unknown Island for their following—they were invited for their secrets. Everyone is hiding a deadly one, and it looks like someone’s decided it’s payback time. Unknown Island isn’t a vacation, it’s a trap. And it’s beginning to look like the First Ten—no matter how influential—are never coming home.
 
I believe this is a retelling of And Then There Were None, but I have not read any of Agatha Christie’s works yet. This was a quick, fast from the get go thriller. It felt very much like a reality show where instead of being voted off the island the character is met with death. The influencer angle didn’t feel awkward or forced, but there were a lot of people I felt. It’s a great, quick summer read.
 
Overall: 4.5/5
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