At the start, the story starts out quite innocuous. The game, though a bit dangerous is a little past-time and entertainment during the summer months. But as the story progresses, the mood shifts darker. The game is deadlier, with challenges that could turn fatal and there are casualties too. The narrative is in dual POV – Heather’s and Dodge’s – two people who are quite similar to each other. One was planning for it and the other was a spur-of-the-moment participant. They form an alliance to help each other out, but they certainly don’t put trust in each other. The secretive nature of the game keeps all the characters second-guessing each others motives and the effects of the game on their personalities and their friendships is actually the main focus of the story. In the plot, the game is the thing that challenges their nature, their principles, their beliefs. The author has constructed the characters such realistically – they aren’t idealistic or something, they aren’t perfect – they are just doing what they can to escape the things bogging them down. Are they a little bad? Yes, they have shades of gray. The lead characters, especially, come from broken homes, and are trying to find a place among the other seemingly normal and perfect people.
The best thing, though, about the book was that I could never guess the direction the story is taking. The storytelling was quite interesting, with the narrative shifting in a way to keep the atmosphere tense and some events were revealed in a retrospective manner. The mystery kept me anxious and my nails are back to stubs thanks to that. The pace, however, was a bit slow for me and coupled with the level of mystery, it was hard stopping myself from skipping paragraphs to see what happens next. It was a good thriller, with a lot of scary moments, and the ending was particularly heart-stopping. Overall, an extremely good standalone from Oliver, once again.