Game by Barry Lyga
Published: April 16th 2013 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Source: ARC from publisher
Synopsis (Goodreads): I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer.
When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.
Meanwhile, Jazz’s dad Billy is watching…and waiting.
My thoughts: I’m morbid and a fan of the macabre, and I totally dug I Hunt Killers (you can read my review here). I loved it so much, I went on a nonfiction reading spree—and developed this list of nonfiction read-alikes for a post over at The Hub. I thought it was a smart, gripping read. Game was one of my most anticipated sequels of this year, and I was very excited to read the sequel.
Game picks up soon after I Hunt Killers. Billy, Jasper’s dad, is on the loose. Jazz is dealing with his crazy grandma, his complicated feelings for his girlfriend, Connie, and his dreams, which are becoming even more disturbing. Life’s not easy for him. Still, when a NYPD detective comes knocking on his door looking for help tracking a serial killer, he can’t say no.
Game requires a suspension of belief, but on a much larger scale than I Hunt Killers. Instead of just helping with a local investigation, Jazz is recruited by the FBI and NYPD. Despite Jazz’s unconventional upbringing and uncanny insight into the mind of a serial killer, I can’t fathom that these authorities, would, let alone could, bring in a minor to assist with their investigation. Despite the believability issues I had with the plot, Game is an engrossing, thrilling read.
Jazz continues to be a fascinating character study. Balancing the seductive pull of his dark urges with his commitment to his mantra “people are real, people matter” creates constant tension, which makes for good fiction.
However, what I enjoyed most about Game was getting to know Connie better. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, even though the plot of this novel requires her to make some not-so-great decisions. She’s tough, and firm, and goes after what she wants. She loves Jazz, and not because of his darkness, but in spite of it. There was one moment when I went “is she really thinking that?” and it’s nice when a character surprises you or is shown to have another side.
Billy is a world class creep, mostly because he’s so damn charming. His dialogue is excellent, and really gives readers a glimpse into his twisted mind.
All of the secondary characters introduced here fell flat for me, especially the law enforcement officers. They had no depth, and certainly weren’t given the treatment Sheriff G. William was given in terms of development in I Hunt Killers. I’m not sure what to think of Jazz’s aunt, Billy’s sister, and I wonder if she’ll factor into the next book.
I think the chapters from the POV of the killer could work for some readers, but they felt extraneous to me. I find Jazz’s story and the way his mind works much more compelling than a garden variety killer’s.
This sequel is a page-turner just like I Hunt Killers, and Lyga crafted a mystery that was intriguing from the beginning and kept me guessing. There are many layers to this game, and Lyga reveals them slowly. Without giving away the mystery, I’ll say that it’s got plenty of twists, heaps of gore, and one hell of a cliffhanger. This novel focuses more on the plot turns and less on Jazz’s internal struggle and character development.
Which leads us to my biggest disappointment with this novel: the ending. Where I Hunt Killers was a fantastic story that wrapped up all the loose ends, it left room for a sequel while working as a standalone novel. Game, in contrast, was a novel split in two, with no clear climax, no resolution. The last half of the book is all rising action. At over 500 pages, it’s not short, and I expected some kind of ending.
I enjoyed Game, but not as much as I Hunt Killers. I’ll look forward to the final installment, but I almost wish I would have waited to read them back to back. If you’re put off by a lack of resolution, I’d suggest you wait for the release of the next one, too.
Recommended for fans of:
- The Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay (though I think this YA series is better written and the Showtime adaptation of the books is superior)
- I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
- The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
- Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn
Wendy at The Midnight Garden: “The thing is, my favorite part of Jasper Dent’s story is not the crimes in and of themselves, but the riveting psychological profile of a boy who’s on the brink of making the choice to ignore his baser instincts and violent training–or to unleash the scary ass monster that you know is hiding inside him.”
YA Love: “I need to start off by saying that I enjoyed Game even more than I enjoyed I Hunt Killers. Barry Lyga has done an excellent job building Jazz’s character and creating an intense and thoroughly enjoyable story. It’s still gory like I Hunt Killers, so be prepared.”