Win Lose Kill Die / Cynthia Murphy / Book Review


Morton Academy is known for it's high-achievers, and everyone's gunning for that top spot. Head Girl at Morton--Head Girl in the Jewel and Bone Society, that is--basically guarantees you a spot at whatever ivy league school you want. Guarantees connections down the line, too.

So is it really surprising when the Head Girl and her closest competition start dropping like flies?

Liz and her best friends can't just ignore the bodies piling up. They're in the running for Head Girl, too. And with a dark, cultish history of murders at Morton Academy already, they're not sure if they're dealing with a student who's a bit too ambitious or, perhaps, something more.



This is a perfectly generic YA thriller. Which is by no means to say it's bad. You just know what you're getting into here. It's dark academia, high melodrama, and a has a bit of a twist at the end (which isn't much of a twist if you've read as many of these as I have). This book does what it sets out to do. And there's nothing wrong with that.


Murderous Intent There's something so fun about digging into the brain of somebody who is absolutely unhinged. These kids are dropping like flies in their highly competitive environment, and it isn't any accident. The vignettes from the murderer's POV interspersed throughout this plot are chilling in the best way. You get to see the plotting and the aftermath, and I like that.

Dark Academia If dark academia is your aesthetic, this book is probably for you. This book is for anyone who likes secret societies that don cloaks, have fingers twisted in all kinds of endeavors, and unaccountably keep hold of a skeleton in an abandoned church in the woods. If you like highly competitive kids in ancient school halls with cutthroat ethics, this might just be your perfect read.

Imperfect Witness Liz might be our primary point-of-view, but let's face it. She really isn't the most reliable of witnesses. She herself was almost a victim at the end of the last term, and she's still dealing with the ramifications of that. She gets migraines. She takes a lot of medication, and she never quite seems to be as on-top-of-it as her peers. What she sees--and what she doesn't--I mean, can we really trust it?


It kind of comes with the genre, so if you like YA thrillers, you won't mind. But as is true of almost every book published in this ilk, the melodrama here is high. It's all about the aesthetic, and so someone looking for a more down-to-earth plot and low-key characters isn't likely to find what they're looking for here. High Stakes, High Drama

These kids really are doing more work than they should be. That's always the case in a thriller like this, where the grown-ups can't necessarily be trusted, but you're going to tell me that these prep school kids can run the type of chemical analysis that they do in this book? No way. I've both studied and worked as a teacher in environments where the kids are supposedly the best of the best, and there's no teenager who manages this one their own. I'm sorry. Being an overachiever doesn't mean you're some supernatural prodigy. Advanced Knowledge

I'm not giving away who our murderer was all along, but I will jump in here to complain that this villain felt a little too... on the nose. They're too aware of what's made them what they are. In their villainous monologue, there's no grandstanding or excuses. There's just a lot of psychology babble thrown around, and I really didn't like that. Not a good look in a world where we need more mental health help, not worse rep. Self-Aware Villain



Fans of Jessie Weaver's Live Your Best Lie will love this new group of friends with questionable motives. Fans of the dark aesthetic and unreliable narrator of Victoria Lee's A Lesson in Vengeance will like this new, deadly boarding school.


Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date: November 28, 2023
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. I love this title, and honestly, the POV of the villain sounds like a hoot! Plus I'm a sucker for nasty boarding schools!

  2. This one's new to me, and although I don't usually seek out YA, it sounds pretty good😁

  3. Another well-written review! My niece would love this book!

  4. This sounds very much like something I would pick up and read - I'm a sucker for the genre ever since I read The Secret History (Donna Tartt) and Ninth House (Leigh Bardugo). Sounds fun!

  5. I do enjoy thrillers, so I may have to add this book to my TBR. I also like that this book includes the murderer's POV because you normally don't get that.

  6. Sometimes I take comfort in knowing what to expect from a read. It doesn't make it bad, just familiar.

  7. I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I don't often read YA thrillers, but this does sound intriguing and indeed, sometimes it's totally ok if you know what to expect from a book :)

  9. interesting title....
    thank you for sharing well written review

  10. This sounds liked a fun guilty read! I bet it would make a great series too. Love the cover art!

    Allie of

  11. Ooo this sounds like an exciting read!

    Allie of

  12. This is the kind of story that I wish I can watch instead of reading. Thanks for this insightful review!


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