Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Reading the description of Gretchen McNeil’s suspense/thriller Ten took me back to my pre-teen years when R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick, and Caroline B. Cooney dominated the shelves in my Walden Books. Eager to return to the style of books that engaged me as a young reader, I readily dove into the pages of Ten.

Meg and Minnie are best friends, and rivals for the heart of T.J. Meg, who is always looking out for Minnie, secretly hides her feelings for T.J. and babies Minnie because of her medical condition. She reluctantly agrees to attend a top secret, 3-day getaway with Minnie on a nearby island, thinking that she’ll spend her time relaxing and writing stories on her laptop.

Meg and Minnie share the luxury home not only with kids from their own school, but also a rival school. The dynamics between the mismatched group of teens turns from playful rivalry to blood curdling terror when a homemade DVD warns them that Vengeance is Mine. One by one, each of the teens meets a horrific end. Meg must determine the identity of the killer through the clues left behind in a dead girl’s diary before she becomes victim number ten.

I got exactly the sort of story I was expecting with Ten, but the grown-up in me wanted something more original and better written than the teen novels of my past. The characters of Ten are all rapidly introduced; it was hard to distinguish one from the other. Because there are allegedly ten deaths that need to occur before the last page of the novel, it was impossible to feel sympathy for any of the characters who lost their lives. I found myself flipping back to the beginning chapters to remind myself what a certain character looked like, or which high school the student attended.

To McNeil’s credit, I did not even come close to figuring out the identity of the murder or his/her motive for picking everyone off. To my credit, I had a vague notion as to how the murderer masked him- or herself from the other weekend guests.

Though Ten is labeled with a “13 and up” reading level, I feel that it will find its biggest fans in readers around 11 or 12, and a mildly entertained audience with readers between the ages of 13 and 14. Readers older than this may be more critical of the book. Aside from a few mentions of sex, Ten is mild in graphic description and is suitable for pre-teen readers at their parents’ discretion.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Balzer + Bray. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.