Sunday, July 11, 2021

REVIEW: Game (book) by Barry Lyga

Game is a YA thriller, the second book in a series. I bought my copy used.


(I'm starting off with spoilers for the first book. You've been warned.)

In the first book, Jazz was kidnapped by the Impressionist and rescued by his friends. Also, one of Jazz's teachers was killed, and Jazz's dad, the serial killer Billy Dent, escaped from prison and killed the social worker who'd been assigned to Jazz.

Now a cop from the NYPD is at Jazz's door, asking for his help. Neither the NYPD nor the FBI can find a pattern behind the Hat-Dog killings, and they think Jazz, with his unique upbringing and insight into serial killers, might be able to help. Jazz does too, so he eventually agrees to go along. His girlfriend Connie goes with him.

However, there's more going on than Jazz realizes, involving his dad, his own history, and possibly even something worse than his dad.

I'll start by saying that if you liked I Hunt Killers, it'd probably be a good idea to have Book 3, Blood of My Blood, on hand and ready for the moment you finish Game. I say this as someone who is currently waiting for an ILL request for the next book to go through. This ends with multiple "characters in peril" cliffhangers, and it's excruciating.

Game really strained my suspension of disbelief. Jazz spent much of the first book convinced that he knew better than all of the adults around him, but they were usually smarter than he gave them credit for, just not as willing to jump to particular conclusions. In this book, Jazz suddenly had both the NYPD and the FBI treating him like an expert, and hardly anyone batted an eye at this 17-year-old coolly examining bodies and crime scene photos. Both in terms of the way Jazz was treated and in the general gruesomeness factor, this read like an adult thriller.

Still, Jazz, Connie, and Howie were teens, and there were multiple times I worried about them. Well, Connie and Howie more than Jazz - other than his "fish out of water" reaction to being in a big city, he generally seemed like he could take care of himself. I worried that Connie would take on too much and push too hard in an effort to prove something to herself and to Jazz. Her being with Jazz while he was looking into the Hat-Dog killer seemed like a recipe for "girlfriend in peril, captured by the serial killer." Then there was Howie, who was even hornier than I remembered him being - he kept trying to hit on Jazz's aunt, who'd agreed to watch out for her mother, Jazz's grandmother.

There was a lot of gore in this, and unfortunately one of the on-page victims was still alive during some of the horrible stuff that happened to him. No new animal violence, although Jazz had a moment where he thought about what his dad did to his dog. And the ending, oof. That made me cringe, and possibly not for reasons Lyga intended. I'm pretty sure that if you're going to use bleach to disinfect a wound, it has to be really diluted, and I'm not sure it was in that instance. (I checked the scene again - no mention that it was diluted with water, unless that somehow happened earlier. Plus there's the whole issue of proper ventilation...)

While I generally found this to be interesting reading, it didn't really hook me until some revelations in the second half. I had theories about what might be going on, some of which I hoped I was wrong about due to that whole "character in peril" thing - I really didn't want any of Jazz's friends to die horribly (again, I figured Jazz, as the main character, would be safe). Annoyingly, Lyga left almost all of my questions unanswered. Here's hoping that Book 3 makes its way to me as quickly as possible. I'd like to read it while my "need to know" feeling is still strong. And when I read that book, I'll finally worry about Jazz properly.

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