Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

ruthlessBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 2016
  • Edition: First
  • Description:  248 pages ; 21 cm
  • Interest Level:  YA
  • Summary: A spine-tingling debut about the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse in reverse as a teen struggles to retain hope—and her sanity—while on the run from a cunning and determined killer.

Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her Ruthless.

When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup trick, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.

At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.  The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decide just how far she’ll go in order to survive.  Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.  Retrieved from

  • ISBN: 978-1-51815-652-6 (originally 978-1-48142-263-5)
  • Subjects:
    • Crime / Kidnapping – Fiction
    • Mental Health – Fiction
    • Survival Skills – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: So, you think I’m a bad person because I have red hair and an attitude?  Brother, you don’t know the half of it.

Book Trailer(s):

Plot Summary: Ruth Carver learned at an early age that success was the key to happiness or at least the glue that could hold her family together.  A gifted horsewoman from whose mother was running a failing horse training facility, the fame she gained in competitions lead to better times for her mother and fewer fights between her parents.  But that stress and her mother’s guidance lead to her becoming a ruthless competitor with little time for the niceties of life and little time or patience with anyone who didn’t have the same level of competitiveness. It left her alone except for one friend and to be seen by most people as cold and mean.  It was this image of her that led one man to see in her all the things he hated about a certain type of girl, and to her being targeted by him to be the seventh red-haired girl he buried under the floor of his forest cabin.  But Ruth will not go quietly into his dark night, and in her the six dead girls put their hope of revenge.

Critical Evaluation:  This is a timely and well written examination of what is unfortunately an all too often occurrence in the world.  Adams has presented a good exploration of what makes a serial killer and what makes one person rather than another the likely object of his obsession.  The chapters move seamlessly back and forth between the pasts of both the killer and the victim, as well as the present nightmare that has become Ruth’s life.  Adams also doesn’t flinch from showing both the negative aspects of Ruth’s personality as well as the history behind them while alternately revealing the terrible history of a boy who was abused and misguided in ways that shaped the monster he became.  You feel for the boy but despise the man he chose to become, just as you dislike the girl but genuinely respect and admire the woman she will become.  It is not easy to write a book that can deliver this level of tension and horror while staying both realistic and on a YA appropriate level.  It is an excellent work by a talented writer.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Carolyn Lee Adams is originally from the Seattle area, breeding ground of serial killers and those who write about them. She attended USC Film School and graduated with a BFA in screenwriting. RUTHLESS (Simon Pulse, Summer 2015) is her first novel. When she isn’t exploring the dark side of human nature in her writing, you’ll find her on stage as a stand-up comedian. Because those things go together.  Retrieved from

Genre Designation: Suspense Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:  None

Book Talk Ideas:  What kind of person would someone think you are if they watched you but didn’t talk to you?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected?  The idea intrigued me, given that many books and movies have this kind of theme but few of them (other than April Henry) approach it for the teen audience.


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