The Secret Runners of New York, Matthew Reilly – Book Review

Hello Humans! It feels like a good long while since I last dipped my toes into the YA dystopian genre (but thinking about it, I just finished Monsters of Men so maybe that’s just me compartmentalising things into weird genre groups). At a guess, I’d say the other books I’ve read lately have been Dry which I loved and Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful which was something entirely different. The Secret Runners of New York felt like it comes much more from a ‘classic’ YA standpoint – though it’s anything but a Hunger Games ripoff. I’ll get into it in the review below!

The Secret Runners of New York

Goodreads Summary:

The windows on all the skyscrapers are smashed . . .

No power, no lights, no people . . .

It’s a parallel New York of some kind. ‘


When Skye Rogers and her twin brother Red move to Manhattan, rumours of a coming global apocalypse are building. But this does not stop the young elite of New York from partying without a care.


And then suddenly Skye is invited to join an exclusive gang known as the Secret Runners of New York.

But this is no ordinary clique – they have access to an underground portal that can transport them into the future. And what Skye discovers in the future is horrifying: the rumours about the coming apocalypse are true . . .


As society crumbles and Skye and Red race to figure out how to use their knowledge to survive the impending annihilation, they soon discover that the chaotic end of the world is a fine time for revenge . . .

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Content warning: self-harm, violence

So, if you asked me to describe this book I’d have to say that it’s a bit like Gossip Girl got smacked in the face with Umbrella Academy and then some classic YA heroines came in and kicked it a little.

But in a good way.

You’ve got the rich Manhattan lifestyle of Gossip Girl, the sense of impending doom of Umbrella Academy and that combination of teenage girl insecurity and fire that comes from all our favourite heroines. Altogether it’s a really good combination.

One of the things that struck me while reading is that, while a lot of the issues this book explores do come from a female perspective – this book looks at that all too relatable problem of ‘mean girls’ (albeit to a somewhat more extreme extent) – overall I felt like this was a book that could really easily be read by teenagers of any (and no) gender. Skye has romance within this book but that’s not really what’s important (I’m making the educated guess that a fair few teenage boys don’t like, or won’t admit to liking, to read fiction with romance). I genuinely think this book would work for anyone who likes this genre and I’m really glad that the cover and the copy seem to reflect that fact.

The pacing in the story is quite interesting. Most books of this ilk would tend to push you into the apocalyptic setting pretty quickly since that’s where the action is. In this case, I’d say 60-70% of the book is set before that, with very little preparation for events to come. It’s much more about the relationships between these teenagers in light of what they know about the future.

Time travel is always a bit of a minefield in fiction, in this case, I thought it was handled well, there are strict rules as to how it works and even the beginnings of an explanation for the science behind it. I wonder if a bit more of a history of how the runners began and how they became exclusively Manhattan’s elite would have been interesting – but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this book was pretty predictable. That’s not a criticism – I know some people really like the familiarity of particular story arks – but people looking to be totally wowed by plot twists galore may not find them in this particular story.  

It’s always tricky to assess the representation of mental health issues in stories like this, where some of the conflicts arise from the stigma surrounding mental health. I do think this book managed to capture the broad spectrum of ways in which mental health can be affected – particularly among teenagers but in adulthood as well. I don’t know that it went into a huge amount of detail but it might be a good springboard for wider discussions off the page. There are some moments where characters have less than favourable attitudes towards mental health issues, which some readers may find distressing, but I’d say that for the most part it’s made clear that those aren’t appropriate or desirable attitudes to have.

Overall, I thought that this was a good book. It didn’t do anything to particularly wow me, and I felt like a lot of the major plot points got crammed into the end – hence the three-star rating, but for me three-stars means that I did enjoy it and would recommend it to people for whom this is their kind of book.

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

The Secret Runners of New York is out now!

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What say you? Will you be reading The Secret Runners of New York? Let me know in the comments below!


4 thoughts on “The Secret Runners of New York, Matthew Reilly – Book Review

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  1. I gave it 3 stars as well. I was expecting a dystopian novel, instead I end up with something between Gossip Girl and Mean Girls. The interesting and the real dystopian part is in the last 30% of the book and I enjoyed it although it is short and not enough, and doesn’t give us a good opportunity to explore the world after the gamma cloud. If the author developed the ‘after’ scenario the book would be great.

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