I was fortunate enough to be able to read P.J. Stanley's Most Likely To Die prior to it's June 4th release. I was going to wait until I could purchase it on Amazon to write my review, but I just couldn't help myself. So, for those interested, the following is my review of Most Likely to Die.
Let me begin by saying that Most Likely to Die is unlike any book that I’ve read before. Prior to picking this up, I didn’t even know that slasher novels were a thing. This book has now sent me down a rabbit hole of this genre and I can’t get enough. I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of the horror genre, especially that of the 80’s and 90’s. It is clear, through the plot and writing, that P.J. Stanley is as well, and thus caters his themes, characters, and dialogue to that audience (certainly no complaints here).
As any true horror fan knows, there are sets of rules and principles to the formula and makeup of a slasher: sex-crazed teenagers at booze-filled parties get picked off one by one by a masked assailant; sometimes it’s a sociopathic murderer escaped from an asylum who wields a butcher knife; sometimes it’s a large, masked man with a machete who loves to hang out at summer camp; sin equals a one-way ticket to being slayed; the killer is everywhere and nowhere, all at once; the virgin is the Final Girl.
Basic, cliché rules…unless you’re Brynn Baldwin and her friends at Bridgefield High School. With callbacks to Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, Most Likely to Die breaks with tradition and the well-known stereotypes. Racing through the pages, I found myself asking, “What are the rules?” It was refreshing to think I knew how the story was going to play out, to only be steered in the opposite direction by each proceeding chapter.
Starting with the second chapter, I kept a list of everyone who I suspected to be the crazed killer. In no time, I found myself crossing names off of my list as my suspects would get murdered. I found myself rooting for certain characters and hoping that they wouldn’t be next (or the killer). Reading this book was like watching a movie. I was overly eager to get to the end and find out who was behind the mask.
P.J. Stanley reinvents the idea of what it means to be called “The Popular Girl,” “The Weirdo,” “The Jock,” “The Cheerleader,” and any other high school title out there. Not everyone is who they seem, and sometimes all it takes is a trip inside of yourself (and being targeted by a serial killer) to realize that you are more than your stereotype. I appreciated the subtleties in the characters and their personal stories, even if they only featured for a brief moment in this fast-paced tale.
I found myself smiling through most of this book. P.J. Stanley is great with dialogue, which makes the characters come alive and seem real and relatable. I literally gasped out loud when I found out who the killer was and then shouted “no way!” at even more twists later on. The kills are right out of a movie and brought me back to some of my favorite scenes in films, such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Final Destination.
For the real horror fans out there - you will appreciate the sneaky easter eggs P.J. Stanley threw into this book. Keep an eye on names, descriptions, and the Billy the Bull’s kills. It took me two reads to pick up on all of the little throwbacks, and as a fan of the genre, I can’t appreciate that level of detail enough.
If you want a fast read filled with murder, mayhem, and a dysfunctional high school hierarchy, Most Likely to Die is for you. You don’t have to be a die-hard slasher fan to appreciate the story and the action, but those who love the genre should be happy to add one more piece of media to their shelves.