Cover of Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams. A blacka nd white picture of a scared white girl superimposed over a highway

About the Book

Title: Ruthless
Published: 2015

Cover Story: The Paperback Was Better
Drinking Buddy: Tinged With Fear
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Naked and Afraid
Talky Talk: Non-Standard Thriller
Bonus Factors: The Most Dangerous Game, Moral Inventory
Bromance Status: One Night Stand

Cover Story: The Paperback Was Better

Yeah, giant teen face. The paperback cover was better.

Cover of the paperback version of Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams, featuring a creep farmhouse

The Deal:

When seventeen-year-old Ruth Caver wakes up blindfolded and restrained in the bed of a pickup truck, we immediately realize that this will not be a romantic comedy. Kidnapped by a psychotic ex-employee of her father’s, she’s taken to a remote cabin where she’s informed that she’s a bad girl who needs to be punished. Disturbingly, he seems to have done this six times before.

Armed to the teeth, violent, and with no intention of letting his prisoner leave alive, Ruth realizes she must escape. She sees her opportunity and seizes it. Naked, barefoot, and lost in the woods, Ruth begins the race of her life.

But Ruth is not a deer to be stalked and killed. All her life, Ruth has taken what she wanted. She visualizes her goal and she grabs it. It’s clear that this man plans to keep her from escaping the wilderness by any means at his disposal. So Ruth must eliminate him–by any means necessary.

Drinking Buddy: Tinged With Fear

Two pints of beer cheersing

Ruth has always been a person who will do anything to achieve what she wants. This serves her well in the world of professional horse shows. Now, she wants to survive. And survive she will. Yes, she’s terrified, but the fear won’t help. She’s going to escape. She grovels when the situation calls for grovelling. She’s assertive when her captor shows uncertainty. And when when violence is called for…she won’t get a second chance to swing that rock.

Her captor, a man with serious woman hating issues, chides her for being dirty and manipulative and unclean. He’s been watching Ruth, observing her, cataloging her sins. And while he and sanity are no longer neighbors, Ruth is forced to admit that he may have just a bit of a point. She does use people. Her parents. Her friends. Caleb, the cute farmhand who’s obviously in love with her, and whom she flirts with, but only to keep him enthralled.

Sometimes when you’re naked and nursing a gunshot wound in the middle of a forest while an insane hermit hunts your for sport, you have a revelation or two about your life choices.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Naked and Afraid

Two go into the forest. One comes out. And while we kind of hope that our hero will emerge victorious, it’s not immediately obvious how. Ruth is unclothed, unshod, and unarmed. Her captor sent text messages from her phone which prevent her family and friends from realizing she’s missing. Oh, and her injuries prevent her from fully using either of her hands.

But this is not a girl who is going to face death like a possum on the highway. She looks at things coldly and logically. Her captor thinks she’s a bad, bad girl. Well maybe he’s right. And maybe he’s going to find out just how much he underestimated her.

The chapters alternate with flashbacks to both Ruth and the kidnapper’s history. If you ever want to know how to raise a boy to absolutely 100% turn into a serial murderer, then read this guy’s story.

Talky Talk: Non-Standard Thriller

Our glimpses into the life of Ruth’s kidnapper make him almost, but not quite, sympathetic. His hellish upbringing. The way he’s forced to hold a humiliating phone conversation with his boss in front of Ruth. The fact that his name is Jerry T. Balls (almost the exact pseudonym my brother-in-law uses in trial memberships). We feel for him, but don’t regret it when Ruth tries to knock his skull in.

And then there’s Ruth. We’re used to our POV characters having minor flaws. Ruth, on the other hand, is forced to face some inner uglies. She brings in a lot of money showing horses, which helps her financially-strapped family. And maybe she holds that over their heads, bossing them around more than a teen girl has a right to. And maybe she knows that Caleb would make a great boyfriend, but he’s just too redneck and low class. She allows him to help her, but never lets him be more than a friend. But never tells him that explicitly. Maybe implies that she might feel the same way about him…someday.

It’s a fight to the death between two strong personalities. We just hope that Ruth comes through with both her body and moral compass intact.

Bonus Factor: The Most Dangerous Game

Movie Poster for The Most Dangerous Game

The mandatory sophomore year reading. A crazed Russian general lures people to his island and then hunts them for sport. And that’s Ruth’s situation. Her tormentor has guns, a truck, knowledge of the woods, and raving madness. All she has are her wits. But those wits are pretty damn impressive.

Bonus Factor: Moral Inventory

Close up of dictionary page for "morality"

In a standard novel, the protagonist learns something and grows as a person. Ruth does this, but over the course of a couple of very intense days.

Bromance Status: One Night Stand

While I don’t think I’ll pick you up again, I couldn’t put you down either. Time well spent.

Literary Matchmaking


Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter also deals with a serial killer.

His Hideous Heart

His Hideous Heart is a book of short stories based on the words of Poe also features deranged killers.


Roland Smith’s Beneath also has a similar vibe.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor corn whisky for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.