As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed less of a tolerance for reading about (or watching) young people do stupid stuff. This book also contains another mark against for me in that an animal dies directly because of young people doing stupid stuff. So if those are two things that bug you keep that in mind when deciding about the book.

Heather, Dodge and Natalie are players in a traditional game in their small we-need-to get out of here town. The pot of the game is over $50,ooo which even for more would provide a good motive for doing stupid stuff old or young. Heather is playing to get herself and her younger sister out of a bad situation. Dodge is playing despite the fact and because his older sister was paralyzed in the game several years ago. Natalie is playing to take the money and go to Hollywood which was kind of the eye rolling one for me in all honesty. The cops can’t get a handle on the increasingly dangerous games and anyone who is even believed to have snitched gets beaten.

Honestly Oliver does a great job of the horrible atmosphere of the town and giving each kid a good motive for doing what their doing. I liked Heather and Dodge though I didn’t care for Natalie I don’t believe she was as well-developed as her friends. There were some voices of reason both adult and teenage in the form of Dodge’s sister Dayna and Heather’s boss Anne but they aren’t really listened too. Oliver also does a good job of racing toward the final joust and creating a sense of impending tragedy although I thought the end was a little too nicely tied up considering the book that came before it.

It’s also a fast easy read once you get into it. I found myself rooting for the character but generally wondering if they had learned anything at all from their experiences.

Would I recommend? Eh… Honestly, I probably wouldn’t read it again but it’s not a bad/ weekend take it with you on a trip kind of read. I’d be careful about giving it to kids who may get ideas but I’ll probably wind up reading Oliver again anyway. No more dead animals though would be highly appreciated.

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