Book Review: Tag, You're Dead

Tag, You’re Dead 
Author: J.C. Lane 
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press 
Publication Date: 5 July 2016 
Page Count: 338 
Source: e-book provided by author 
Audience: Young Adult – Contemporary Fiction, Suspense

We all remember playing tag as a kid – or tig, as it’s called in the UK (at least, in Scotland it is) – but this version of tag is very different from what we used to play at. Because in this game, if you get tagged you die.

Tag, You’re Dead is about six very different teenagers. Three of them are extremely wealthy and either bored or mad at their lots in life. The other three are less wealthy, but quite content with where their lives are leading them. If you’re wealthy enough, you can buy a game of Tag with any person of your choosing, whether you know them or not. And the person chosen has no say in whether they play or not. The threat of death to themselves and those they love is what makes them play, and keeps them in the game to the end. The three “runners” are dropped on the outskirts of Chicago with $500 and a smart watch as their only tools of survival. They must reach their home base before their respective “Its” tag them. What keeps the game interesting, besides the threat of death, is that every 30 minutes the runners’ exact locations are transmitted to It, keeping the runners on their toes and thinking smart if they wish to win the game.

I loved this story. At points, it was sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat tense. The book was written from six different points of view: Brandy, a rich girl who has had a ton of cosmetic surgery, but is still not as pretty as she wants to be; Robert, an untalented basketball player who thinks he is better than he really is; Charles, a genius who is bored with everything in his life, nothing challenges him anymore; Lauren, a sweet, modest, and genuine natural beauty from a small town; Tyrese, the basketball star who is going to go far in his career after high school; and Amanda, a gaming genius who loves nothing more than sitting in front of her computer all day. You’d think it would be hard to keep these six strong personalities separate and not blend them, but that is exactly what J.C Lane does. Each character stands on their own, and it makes it so easy to differentiate between them all, and to feel their fear and anger and hatred.

I love the concept of this story. It has a kind of Hunger Games/Battle Royale feel to it, kids running and fighting, sometimes to the death. Tag is a fond memory from almost everyone’s childhood, and this twists it into something from our nightmares. Knowing that you have to outsmart the person chasing you, stay one step ahead so you don’t die, is honestly, the plot to many thrillers or suspense novels (and movies), but to add in the additions of being tagged, your location being transmitted every 30 minutes, only being about to communicate with the “referee” through their smart watches, makes it such a fun and unique idea.

The rules of the game are also interesting and intriguing. It’s not an all-out “win” for the Its of the game. If the runner reaches home base first, the game switches and the runner becomes It and the first It becomes the new runner, with a new home base and 15 minute transmissions. Also, stated in the rules, if the first It fails to tag their runner, their contract is sent to the police and they are charged with attempted murder. I just feel like this book and game were very well thought out and researched. I love all the little extras J.C. Lane has added to her story.

I feel like this story has an underlying message. I know a lot of stories do, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always pick up on a deeper, underlying message to the stories I read. I just love to read and have fun and enjoy what I’m reading, without looking too deep. But with this one, at least one of the messages is a very clear message right across the top. Being rich and having money does not make you happy, or a better person. Brandy, Robert, and Charles have all the money in the world, but they aren’t happy. Brandy with all her plastic surgery, still isn’t satisfied with her looks or popularity; Robert can’t buy himself the talent he needs to be the star of his basketball team; and Charles doesn’t have the friendship he craves or the challenges he needs to prove himself a genius. Lauren, Tyrese, and Amanda are three very different people, but content with their ordinary lives. It goes to show, money cannot buy you happiness.

I’ve never been to Chicago, but I love all the landmarks the author used in her book. If someone had been to Chicago before, or even lives there, I think it would make it an even more personal and fun read. It actually makes me want to go to Chicago and map out where the runners and Its traveled through the city.

I absolutely loved the ending to the book. I won’t give any spoilers away, but the author visited each contestant at the end of the game to see what they were doing, how their lives had changed after less than two days of running and chasing. I also loved the twists the story took throughout and at the end. I am looking forward to reading more of J.C. Lane’s works.

Favorite Thing About This Book: As I said earlier, I love the concept of the story. The idea of making an innocent game of tag into something evil is so very intriguing to me. I love a bit of suspense and this book gives it to you.

First Sentence: “I can’t choose,” Brandy Inkrott said. “I want to kill them all.”

Favorite Character: Amanda

Least Favorite Character: Brandy

Six young people play a dangerous Game of Tag in public, chasing through the crowds, streets, and buildings of Chicago. This secret, one-of-a-kind, wildly expensive Game offers a macabre twist to the childhood version if you get Tagged, you get Dead. Three "Its" have their reasons for buying a place in the Game. Surgically enhanced Brandy is obsessed with destroying a naturally beautiful girl. Untalented Robert covets his target's position as superstar of the basketball team. Brainiac Charles craves a battle against an intellectual equal. Given their elite social status, they reject any possible downside to the contest. Each expects the satisfaction of killing their prey, then walking away. Hand-picked innocents play as Runners, under threat to their loved ones should they refuse to participate: lovely, small-town Laura; celebrated athlete Tyrese; and Amanda, gamer extraordinaire. Alone, hunted by their adversary, each feels a single hope to survive. Technological wizardry controls the Game. As soon as Runners receive the Go signal on smartwatches locked to their wrists, the Game rockets them through the city, from the El to Michigan Avenue to the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is no time to rest. Every thirty minutes the Runner s location is transmitted to the It, which steadily diminishes the Runner s chance of ever reaching Home Base alive. The Game will not end until someone is Tagged, so the Runners must choose how to play. Will they accept death? Murder their Its? Or find a way to use individual strengths to stop the Game before anyone dies?"


  1. Thank you so much for this thorough and thoughtful review, Heather! I appreciate how much time you took to read and respond. And of course I'm thrilled that you loved the book. Yay!


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