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Book Review: This Book Kills by Ravena Guron

Book Review: This Book Kills by Ravena Guron

As each year comes to an end, it’s easy to fall into the one thing all book lovers fear: the dreaded reading slump. That was certainly true for me this past December. I’d read so many books – both great, good and middling – and suddenly my brain felt oversaturated. I needed an easy, entertaining and inventive book to kick-start my reading for the New Year, and This Book Kills fitted the bill perfectly.

Taking place against the moneyed backdrop of an elite English boarding school with a killer on the loose, Ravena Guron’s YA thriller sets the scene for a cleverly plotted Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery with plenty of teen angst and red herrings. It’s all held together by scholarship student Jess Choudhary, who unwittingly becomes embroiled in the shocking crime when it’s revealed that her short story was the inspiration for the murderer.

The victim is Hugh Henry Van Boren, one of the most popular and richest kids at Heybuckle School. Jess is aware that her scholarship rests on her keeping her grades high and her record clean, but the killer seems intent on dragging Jess and the few friends she has into their murderous plot. With the school trying to salvage their reputation, the police dragging their feet, and a killer who seems to have insider knowledge of all the students’ secrets, Jess has no other choice. She must solve the mystery or risk ending up like poor dearly departed Hugh Henry.

I’ll make it clear from the start: I did not kill Hugh Henry Van Boren. I didn’t even help. Well, not intentionally.”

Like all good murder mysteries, This Book Kills begins with a simple enough plot. There’s a shocking murder and a killer on the loose; the bodies are mounting and the key to solving the crime rests with the intelligent protagonist. So far, so familiar. But Ravena Guron’s story feels fresh and fun, partly down to the self-aware first person perspective that’s slightly tongue-in-cheek but never to the detriment of the characters or the mystery at its heart. Jess is a compelling character because she’s an outsider who keeps her head down, but the murder forces her to step outside the boundaries she’s been living in. In doing so she discovers new friends and a strong voice she didn’t know she possessed.

Jess’ transition from wallflower to self-assured young adult plays out in parallel to her trying to solve a mystery that constantly has her on the back foot, second guessing not just herself but everyone around her too. Each of her classmates come under suspicion at some point, as do her teachers, allowing readers to play along as detective. I’m not saying I could give Hercule Poirot a run for his money, but I did guess the identity of the killer fairly early on. Yet that didn’t take away from the clever way the mystery unfolds, with a devilishly well-plotted end that certainly has a few surprises up its sleeve.

See Also

This Book Kills is a perfect example of a YA thriller done right. There’s humour, drama, danger and twists galore, not to mention a tense, confined school setting, making it a must-read for fans of One of Us Is Lying or Pretty Little Liars.


This Book Kills is published by Usborne on 5 January 2023

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