Year of Publication: 2012
Genre: YA Fiction
Format (How I Read It): Audiobook
ARE YOU PLAYING THE GAME OR IS THE GAME PLAYING YOU?
Vee doesn’t know if she has the guts to play NERVE, an anonymous online game of dares. But whoever’s behind the game knows exactly what she wants, enticing her with lustworthy prizes and a sizzling-hot partner. With Ian on her team, it’s easy to agree to another dare. And another. And another. At first it’s thrilling as the Watchers cheer them on to more dangerous challenges. But suddenly the game turns deadly. Will Vee and Ian risk their lives for the Grand Prize dare, or will they lose NERVE?
Trigger warnings: References to suicide and domestic abuse. (These topics are referenced in the review below as well).
Themes: Be brave. Take risks. Don’t give in to peer pressure. Social media is a distortion of reality/The power of social media.
Character Development: The character development in this book was pretty much nonexistent. Vee, our protagonist, is quiet (the worst possible character trait, apparently?) and overall pretty pathetic. She’s initially obsessed with a guy who is undeniably creepy and gross. It never makes any sense why she likes him. She’s motivated by petty things (like shoes, for example) and looks to others to solve her problems. Ian, her love interest later in the book, has literally no personality. His only character trait is “hot.” That’s it. Vee and Ian are kind of cute at first, but then all of sudden they’re hopelessly in love with each other? There’s no development of the relationship, it just happens all of a sudden. Basically, all the characters are very two-dimensional (if that) and we’re told about the relationships rather than shown their development.
Plot/Pacing: One good thing I can say about this novel is that it’s short and fast-paced. As for the plot, the story is based on these online dares and they’re what move the plot forward. Unfortunately, the stakes end up being really low and the dares are… kind of lame. The first dare she does is dumping water on herself in a coffee shop and yelling, “Water makes me hot!” Umm, ok? The final dare requires them to stand in a dark room (no one can see each other) and point a gun at each other. If the purpose of this game is to stream it to Watchers, why would the Watchers want to watch a dare that no one can see?? It just doesn’t make any sense, and the dares don’t feel exciting enough. One other part of the plot that’s frustrating and unnecessary is the initial conflict at the start of the story. Vee is grounded because… she attempted to commit suicide? Why would someone be grounded for that? Also, she insists that it’s a misunderstanding and she didn’t mean to, but then by the end she admits she may have done it for… attention?! It’s just a horrible portrayal of a subject that deserves to be handled delicately. It should have been left out entirely (like it was in the movie adaptation).
Writing Style: Luckily the concept was interesting enough to keep my attention, because the writing was not the best. In general, the dialogue was incredibly cringe-worthy and the characters were flat.
“Bingeability”: Moderate-high. Though the writing may not have been the best and the plot could have been executed better, I was still entertained. It’s a quick and easy read.
Emotional Investment: Low. The stakes were low and the romance was underwhelming.
Windows and Mirrors: Peer pressure. Internet fame. Destructive power of social media.
Overall Thoughts: I was really excited to read this one because the concept just sounded so interesting! It definitely seems like something that could be possible in the future with the rise of social media influencers and everything. We’ve even seen small-scale versions of things like this happening already with various social media challenges (cinnamon, Tide Pods, etc.). It’s undeniable that people will risk their wellbeing for even a small amount of Internet fame (and possibly money). Unfortunately, it just wasn’t executed as well as I would have hoped. I was still entertained, but it had the potential to be so much better. As evidenced by the movie adaptation! I remembered seeing the trailers for it when it came out, but I never saw it. As soon as I finished the book, I decided to watch the movie to compare. This is one of the rare times when the movie was actually better than the book! Comparing the two just solidified my opinion that it’s a winning concept, but needed some fine-tuning in terms of character development and plot (something that the movie did a good job correcting). I hope this author continues writing and honing her skills, because she has great ideas!
Recommendation: If you want some quick and easy entertainment, the book would be fine for that. Otherwise, I’d recommend watching the movie! The stakes are higher and the movie version of Ian (played by Dave Franco) is much more charming!
Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!