Bestselling author Kalynn Bayron debuted in the YA space with her fantasy novel Cinderella Is Dead, with follow-ups still within the genre. More recently, Bayron has been leaning more into the supernatural and horror, and for her upcoming book, You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight, she goes all in.
You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight centers on Charity, whose summer job is playing the final girl at Camp Mirror Lake. Previously used as the filming location for the in-world classic slasher The Curse of Camp Mirror Lake, the camp is now a terror simulation where guests pay to experience recreations of scenes from the movie. However, as the season comes to a close, Charity’s co-workers begin disappearing, and now “final girl” is more than just a job; it’s the real deal. So, in order to survive the night, Charity and her girlfriend Bezi work to unravel the camp’s murky history, only to discover there’s much more to it than they could have imagined.
From page 1, Bayron sets the tone of the entire story with a provocative opening that demonstrates the Camp Mirror Lake staff’s capabilities and lets readers know that she won’t hold back in what’s to come later. It’s eerie and isolating, even before anything wild goes down. Bayron milks that feeling for much of the story, making it all the more unsettling, and it’s one of the book’s greatest strengths. Rather than jump immediately into the actual horror beyond the simulation, Charity and the others have moments to breathe. And it’s in those moments that Bayron builds tension, creating that uneasy feeling where readers know the other shoe eventually has to drop. And when it does, Bayron doesn’t hold back, leaning into the slasher of it all, but not just including gore for gore’s sake. It’s deliberate, meant to drive the action forward.
Charity herself is a compelling final girl — in every meaning of the title — who easily carries the story. The more readers learn about her, the more weight being the final girl holds, considering what happens later on in the book. Something Bayron really drives home with Charity is the comfort horror can bring. Sure, horror isn’t the first genre one would expect to be a safe spot, but with Charity especially, it emphasizes how it offers her a way to escape her real life. Even if it’s just for a summer. Through her love of Camp Mirror Lake and her role as final girl, readers learn about her home life, something she’s not eager to get back to. She becomes more than just her title and is a character who first and foremost connects with readers on a deeper level, who is sympathetic and easy to root for.
Though readers gain insight into Charity — and the others — as people, Bayron doesn’t forget the situation they’re in. It is important to remember that Charity is the final girl, and with that comes a slew of responsibilities. She isn’t just the character who is meant to survive the night, for the terror simulation and the actual danger at hand. She protects Bezi and the others, pushes them to fight back when necessary, and becomes a pillar of support through the fear. Moreover, she and the others have a solid group dynamic, given the circumstances. They’re recognizable characters, but Bayron ensures her Black and queer characters have agency through the book’s entirety.
Overall, You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight is a must-read for horror fans. At every turn, it’s clear that Bayron holds a strong understanding of the genre, and she uses that to her advantage. It’s a familiar story that also stands on its own, with a unique and fresh perspective. It’s filled with twists, each more jaw-dropping than the last, but they never feel like “gotcha” moments purely for shock value. Bayron takes care to pick up and connect every thread she drops, ensuring that each major reveal has a definitive source readers can pinpoint. The story is chilling, heart-pounding, and nothing short of a page-turner.