The Challenge by Tom Hoyle

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The Challenge by Tom Hoyle

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: A mystery thriller for teens, with a couple of unexpected twists… but I'd have liked to see a bit more darkness…
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1447286776

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One ordinary afternoon, Ben's best friend Will goes missing. Soon after, twins Sam and Jack move to Ben's school and take an interest in him. It turns out both twins have an obsession with enacting challenges they set each other, and it doesn't take long for Ben to get involved in their strange game. But with every new challenge they set him, he starts to wonder whether they might be slightly unhinged…

When it comes to menace, The Challenge blows virtually every other book I've read this year out of the water. It opens with a mystery and slowly, slowly starts to unravel it, dropping dark hints along the way that something nasty is about to happen. The reveal is as creepy and as nasty as suggested, and the book closes on a great twist.

And yet… I kind of wish it had gone further than it did. Hoyle uses implication and suggestion extremely effectively to build his mystery, and though some of the challenges the twins force him to enact are nasty – one, in particular, is truly appalling – too much is left implied rather than made explicit: I was left wanting more.

Refreshingly, the novel doesn't rely on the archetypes you usually find in YA, and Hoyle makes you interested in the characters despite how little we get to know them: Will feels like a fully realised character though we only see him alive for a brief instant, and the lack of differentiation between Sam and Jack is played up to make them uncannily creepy. I wish we'd seen a bit more from some of the side characters, though: Caroline, the girl Ben has a crush on, doesn't have much of a presence other than being someone for Ben to try and impress (the fact that I had to look up her name nicely illustrates how little impression she makes to the story); I'd have liked to see her have a bigger role in the plot.

I'm interested to read some of Hoyle's other books after this one. I'm assured they're all dark and twisty, and if this one is anything to go by then I'm in. (Also, they all have such pretty covers. I want the full set!)

Whilst reading this, I was strongly reminded of Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich – it has a very similar plot, but I think it explores the idea in a slightly cleverer way.

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Buy The Challenge by Tom Hoyle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Challenge by Tom Hoyle at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Challenge by Tom Hoyle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Challenge by Tom Hoyle at


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