Sixteen-year-old Avene was sentenced to prison at thirteen for a crime she didn't commit. Now she has a chance to win her freedom back – if she enters the Headhunters Race. Second prize isn't so bad either, an upgrade to the Leisure Prison if you make it to the finish line. To win either prize, Avene and the other prisoners must navigate one hundred and fifty miles of dense forest, desert, and worst of all, cannibal territory. With a mechanical collar timed to strangle the prisoners if they're not back in nine days, Avene allies herself with seventeen-year-old McCoy, another prisoner that insists on helping her at every turn and a boy she's trying hard not to fall for. Together they battle nature, other prisoners, and the timed death collars to win the coveted prize. But when Avene is tested with one deadly conflict after another, she realizes there is more at stake than winning her freedom – first she has to survive.
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What first caught my attention was the
gorgeous cover, it's really pretty and as I discovered later, fits in
well with the plot too, which is a rare event in typical Teen books
I've found. The book itself is a quick read, only around 200 pages
but packed with action all the way through.
Our protagonist is Avene, a 16 year old
girl who has been sent to prison for the death of her mother. It's
not mentioned in the description, but she's sent there not for the
murder but as an accomplice to Gavin, her brother's crimes, who was
accused of the murder. However, her brother escaped and Avene was
thrown in the prison knows as the Dead Man's Pen where it's every man
or woman for themselves.
At least, I think Gavin is her brother.
Due to either my lack of attention or bad editing, I didn't see the
word brother at all when Avene recollected the event early on, and I
thought he was just a random person, kitchen staff perhaps. It wasn't
until she mentioned the word brother later on that it clicked and at
first I thought he would be a secondary love interest, as these
things usually go. Honestly, I'm very, very confused about this as
even after 3 years she's not sure she can recognise him, the guy she
says she's spent years with.
I did enjoy this book. It has
some very unique elements in it that kept me reading long into the
night. Avene's plan is to get out of the Pen and the only way to do
that is to run The Headhunter's Race and if you finish in time you get
to be not dead and upgraded to a leisure prison, with decent meals
and a warm bed. However, if you come back with Gavin (or his head),
you get to walk free. Which is exactly what Avene plans to do.
A lot of Avene's decisions are
questionable. She never once questions Gavin's guilt, yet questions
everything else King (her step father) has done. She's easily jealous
and suspicious. The love interest, McCoy seems nice, however the
author chose to use the 'he's an ass I don't like him he's out to get
me' cliché that in most places, didn't make sense after she already
kissed him. However, overlooking the issues I did enjoy this book and
if/when a sequel is written, I will definitely be reading it to find
out what happens next.