A Thrilling yet Frustrating Read | Review of ‘Ten’

By Cynthia Ayala

Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Balzer & Bray
Image Credit: Goodreads

No parents, no supervisions, just ten kids along on Henry Island for a party…but the party never came. Alone with no way to contact the outside world, the teens are left only with a DVD containing a sinister message saying “Vengeance is mine.” Now the kids are dying and it’s up to Meg to put the clues back together, to find the killer who may be closer than she thinks.

Ten, published on September 18, 2012, by Balzer & Bray, is a young adult thriller by Gretchen McNeil that is a retelling of Agatha Christie‘s classic mystery/thriller And Then There Were None.

Ten is very much a novel intended for the younger audience; the characters are bratty high school kids who think they are the center of the worlds. That’s not to say that the characters are redeemable, they may have made mistakes, lied, cheated, and were bullies. Some of the kids are rotten, that’s for sure, making their deaths less remorseful for the reader, unlike with the original piece of work where they were nice characters until the revelation of their crimes. In this novel not so much, because half of the kids are obnoxious bullies, and then the victim, the mastermind behind all of this, they are equally pathetic. On some level, McNeil was trying to create sympathy for the character with the hints towards the past, but it failed. Instead, what she delivered instead was a very irrationally delusional and depressed girl. McNeil failed to capture depression in a realistic manner and instead delivered what seems like a very stereotypical way of looking at severe manic depression. As for the other characters, they were the stereotypical popular kids in school. The smart one, the artsy one, they were all at fault for something for driving the “villain” to the extreme. Again, it’s high school and the “villain” just comes off as delusional. It is so hard to feel bad for the antagonist because everything that happens to them, losing a spot on the choir, getting an F on a science project, kicked off the debate team, those are minuscule in comparison to everything else the antagonist suffered emotionally. Was it fair? No, but there are two sides to the coin, and that is the only moment the reader feels sympathy for the kids because some of them did not mean any harm whatsoever.

The overall high school drama was a disservice to both the plot and the reader because there is a considerable amount of tension build up, throughout, and that suspense, the atmosphere, McNeil captured that very well to create a novel the reader doesn’t want to put down. However, the characterization is off and so are the character dynamics are frustrating. The reader is unable to understand the friendship dynamics because very quickly, they all begin to treat each other like crap, even before the sinister activities. That doesn’t work and instead creates a deterrent for the reader.

The biggest saving grace is the fact the Meg is likable and the tension, the clues, the suspense, together they keep the novel captivating and without that strong writing, the novel would just be a bloody killing spree of rotten teenagers. (★★★☆☆ | C-)

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