Posted November 29, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 13 Comments

Looks like Alcatraz. But worse.

by Gretchen McNeil
Balzer and Brey
Purchased from the Nook Store
[#65 in my 75 book challenge]

Ten is the story of ten teens trapped on a island with a killer, slowly being murdered one-by-one. McNeil packages the story like a teen slasher flick in a YA horror novel: unlikable characters, one-dimensional characters, cut off communication, a crazy rainstorm, and a continuously growing body count.

If the plot sounds familiar, you’ve probably read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, the classic novel the book is based on. I just read Christie’s novel earlier this year  (check out my review). McNeil takes the Christie story and updates it with some modern twists. In the process, she also updates the plot in a few key places…which didn’t sit well with me. Christie’s ending is classic, but the ending to Ten fell flat for me. I could handle the obnoxious teen speak and the awful characters (I hated them all), but I seriously thought it would all be redeemed by the end.


I flew through this book, expecting something great. It was hard to concentrate on the story when I was already aware of how it was “supposed” to end, and what the possible red herrings would be. As I was reading, I thought McNeil was either brilliant (think Scream-like meta-slasher fun, poking fun at horror cliches) or that she was writing a very stereotypical, poorly written book. It all hinged on the ending, when her brilliance would be revealed. It wasn’t. The book is exactly what it appears as you read it. My expectations might have been a tad high, I guess.

FINAL GRADE:  C   Fans of Christie will be disappointed. I would imagine that anyone would hasn’t read And Then There Were None might actually find the story okay, which is why teens will probably love it. Ten would be a good addition to a middle or high school horror collection, and would probably see high circulation. Teachers and librarians could even use the story as a gateway read to Christie’s novel. I think it would be very interesting to see both novels read in a book club or classroom! Reading Ten got me in the spirit to read more Agatha Christie (I just started The ABC Murders), because nobody else can do it quite like she can! The bar has been set high.

What did you think of Ten? Have you read Christie’s And Then There Were None or any of her other books?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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13 responses to “Ten

  1. I think the plot has been already used in a film – island , ten persons one killer among them , think mindhunters was the name of the movie

  2. Ah, well. There is only one Christie, isn’t there? I was wondering how they would pull off a similarly “wow” worthy ending with teens as characters…..never mind. Will give it a miss and stick with the original! Thanks for the heads-up.

  3. I do not like to read a book that is predictable and since I have read “And Then There Were None”, I guess I should probably skip “Ten”. I did get a bit excited though when I saw the cover photo.

  4. I have a feeling that knowing the ending will ruin it for me. The only thing that keeps me going on Christie books is that suspense. Which I love! Her books are amazing. 🙂

  5. I read “And Then There Were None,” but it’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten who the killer was and most of the important details, so I think I’ll pick this one up – I’ve heard similar things about it from other people, that it can be a fun read but it’s not spectacular, and the original is, of course, much better. Thanks for the review!

  6. This is exactly why I will not be reading Ten. I adored And Then There Were None – I was in eighth grade and it was my first Agatha Christie book and the first quality mystery book I ever read. From the reviews I’ve read already, I know that all the differences will be too uncomfortable for me and just leave me disappointed. I do agree that perhaps it can be used for good, as a gateway to get teens and young readers interested in Christie’s works. I hope that would happen.

  7. I generally love re-tellings, but this is just sacrilegious! Kidding a little, but really – the ending is awesome because it’s clever and surprising, Re-hashing it, I can’t imagine it having the same impact, since it’s no longer either clever or surprising.

  8. I loved Ten. I would have given it five stars if it wasn’t for the fact I hated Meg and TJ’s relationship and it was a major cornerstone of the book. And honestly, I don’t see how it’s really “based on” Agatha’s Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. I mean it’s like incredibly loosely based. Ten people being brought to a big house in the middle of nowhere? That’s hardly an original idea. Still, I enjoy seeing other viewpoints. It’s a shame you didn’t really like the book.

    If you want to read my review of Ten, check it out here: http://thesisterstale.blogspot.com/2012/10/review-ten-by-gretchen-mcneil.html

    • Tara

      Oh! I disagree that it’s only loosely based! Most of the deaths paralleled Christie’s, the DVD (Christie used a phonograph), the slashes on the wall (Christie used the figurines), the red herring, the motive, and part of the murderer reveal were all “borrowed” from Christie and updated. That’s why I really wanted Christie’s crazy triple ending. I think I enjoyed McNeil’s actual story/writing better than Christie’s, but I liked Christie’s ending better.

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