Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers Young Adult

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Thank you so much to St Martin’s Press for the ARC of The God Game by Danny Tobey! This is a technological thriller with mythological and sci fi elements, read on to find out why I’m recommending this book!

Synopsis from GoodReads:

You are invited! Come inside and play with G.O.D. Bring your friends! It’s fun! But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then th threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

If cool rainbow-reflective lettering on the cover wasn’t enough, this book was completely addictive as well. The premise is that a group of five high school friends (but is this really a YA book? I think all ages will enjoy this with no problem) stumble upon a chatbot that claims to be G.O.D. This moral experiment has tons of players all over the world and attempts to crowd surf morality.

All five students have their own secrets and family issues. At this point they are trying to get into college, or just survive. The game puts each teenager against them self, each other, and the community, causing them to make choices and understand that each action has a consequence.

I think these are important topics for teens to read about. Themes about lying, bullying, suicide, child abuse, religion, and taking responsibility for your actions are all included in the book. Some are discussed thoughtfully and others less so. My favorite part was seeing how each teen reacted once they learned that their choices, actions, and decisions all had very potentially harmful flip sides for someone else.

“Donald Trump is a shape shifting lizard”

The other part I enjoyed was the humor! Isn’t it great that we live in a country where we can publish “Donald Trump is a shape-shifting lizard?” I did something similar to that to George Bush and it was made clear to me by the teacher that I should be thankful I didn’t live in a country where I could be imprisoned or worse for writing bad presidential poetry. Just saying. That part had me absolutely rolling though, but then The God Game got more intense and progressively darker to the point where I wasn’t laughing anymore.

I also enjoyed that progressive descent into ruin. It made the book so hard to put down. The end got a little bit convoluted and murky which is why I dropped the rating to four stars. The other part that threw me was some of the talk about code, I don’t know anything about coding and although it didn’t throw me off too hard – I just had no idea what they were talking about during those passages. The hacking parts were still interesting.

I thought after they had been though that the characters deserved a nice wrapped up ending after the game answered it’s biggest question of morality…. but that’s not how G.O.D. works.

The book releases on January 7th, 2020, mark your calendar if The God Game sounds up your alley!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge Books for my advanced copy of Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry! Synopsis from GoodReads:

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more… Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

I do not read a lot of young adult contemporary because as a 30 something year old, I can never identify with the characters or stories, and I am SO HAPPY to say that this is not the case with this amazing book.

First I just want to comment on the location: I originally thought that the book took place in Saranac Lake because of the TB hospital and note up front, but there is a portion of a real diary included in the novel from a patient at the hospital. The book actually takes place somewhere in Kentucky, but I still was jumping at home being mentioned in a book at all.

I loved the characters and the lessons they learned. Veronica is dealing with a brain tumor and believes that she is living life to the fullest… or is she just waiting to die? Sawyer is a popular kid who has a whole houseful of his own issues, and the unlikely couple end up empowering each other to confront their fears.

The book revolves around a school project that Veronica and Sawyer are doing together, to prove or disprove that ghosts exist. The themes about residual hauntings are absolutely beautiful, concluding that these are caused by emotions and events too powerful to leave the mortal world, and they can haunt a person in their day to day decisions. There may or may not be evidence of other ghosts in the story, but those are part of the fun of reading.

It is not a ghost story though, I thought it was shaping up to turn into one but it really isn’t, it is SO much more. The book deals with delicate and important themes like depression, alcoholism, enablers, addiction in general, and mortal illness. Poor little Lucy, Sawyer’s younger sister, seems to be the wildcard in the story and I just felt so bad for that little girl.

The one part that I wasn’t quite thrilled with was Sawyer’s voice when we first met him, I don’t really like cryptic language that usually means a poor attempt at foreshadowing. Stick with him though because it ends up making sense, and he ended up being my favorite of the dual points of view.

I think Veronica and Sawyer have a great relationship though and their groups of friends are really, truly good friends, which is shown towards the end of the book. Their dad’s are also great characters, V’s dad is a big amazing papa bear and I loved him, then Sawyer’s dad at the end stepping up and taking care of his kids was a good message as well. I think this is a great book for young adults and teens (and even adults) to read. It made me really think about some of the aforementioned themes … I can’t get this residual haunting concept out of my head.

I would totally recommend this book to ANYONE, which is rare for me. It publishes January 14th so check it out if it sounds up your alley!