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Wattys Shortlist: In the Days Before

Hello, folks! I’m back with yet another review of a book on the Wattys 2023 Shortlist (Completed). I must say, the stories on the list this year are phenomenal. As soon as I start one, I cannot put it down until it’s done. How in Hades did my book end up on this list with the talent I’ve seen so far?

The next review is on “In the Days Before” by Renee Shantel (@ReneeShantel on Wattpad). I ended up skipping ahead on my list to read this one. As a mystery/thriller writer myself, I was itching to start it, and, boy, I was not disappointed.


“In the Days Before” tells the story of high schooler Audrey, who has a fledgling YouTube channel covering missing persons. It’s something she pours all her energy into, even though it doesn’t get nearly as many views as her friends’ Instagram and beauty content. And it leads to an argument between Audrey and her best friend Jackie… right before Jackie goes missing. Even worse, suspicion begins to fall on Audrey all because of her YouTube channel.


A good mystery has you on your toes, guessing every step of the way, picking up clues as you go. This book definitely has that down pat. Shantel is skillful at dropping the right clues at the right time. Pushing you in different directions. When we finally get to the big moment, it’s that perfect recipe for a twist. I was shocked and didn’t completely see it coming. But at the same time, I realized that I could have seen it coming. I love those twists/endings. When it makes sense and is completely plausible - and potentially predictable - but you still get smacked in the side of the face with it.


I don’t know what it’s like for other mystery writers, but for me, getting that perfect balance can be tricky to write. Wanting to give enough information that people aren’t completely thrown off when your perpetrator is revealed, but yet not so much that readers figure it out on page 1. “In the Days Before” had me guessing all the way up to the final moment, and I was completely satisfied with how we got there.


Love this book and definitely recommend it to those who love a good mystery/thriller. It’s not super dark, but still intense. Here’s the link if you want to give it a read.


I’m actually kind of hoping that we get a follow-up book focusing on Audrey’s investigation into her father’s case. While part of me wishes we could have gotten a deeper look into that, I also think the book is perfect as it is. Anything more on Audrey’s father would have been distracting.


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