Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … Game by Barry Lyga

Monday, April 8, 2013

Just Finished Reading … Game by Barry Lyga

Game (Jasper Dent #2) by Barry Lyga
To be published by Little, Brown BFYR
on April 16, 2013

Source: e-ARC from publisher on NetGalley for possible review. Please see my full FTC disclosure on blog's right sidebar.

Buzzwords: serial killer, turning into your parents, nature vs. nurture

Content: gory murders; not recommended for the very squeamish.

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Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) In an effort to prove murder didn’t run in the family, Jazz, son of notorious serial killer Billy Dent, teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple – and its police force – running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

My take: I have read a LOT of mysteries and thrillers. Thomas Harris, Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid, Tana French and Denise Mina are some of my favorite authors. So I'm always so happy to find YA books in the mystery-suspense sub-genre.

I really enjoyed the first book in the Jasper Dent series, I Hunt Killers. You can read my review here. Though quoting myself is a little strange, I said: "this book is awesome: quirky yet complicated characters, black humor, a page-turning mystery plot, and a fascinating undercurrent of inner conflict."

Basically, I think it's a genius idea to take the son of a notorious serial killer and focus a series of YA books around him.  I didn't enjoy Game quite as much as I Hunt Killers and, since I finished reading, have been trying to solve that mystery: what was missing for me in that second book?

One of my favorite aspects of I Hunt Killers was the psychological angst suffered by poor Jazz. Whether serial killers are born or made, Jazz seems screwed either way: he's got the DNA and the environmental influences. His father taught him a lot about the family business, so to speak. In the first book, he's convinced that he might have helped his father kill someone, and in Game, he's still wondering about that. In I Hunt Killers, he was freaking out at the idea of having sex with his girlfriend Connie --as he's convinced that sex and violence are somehow dangerously intertwined in his psyche. In Game,  these issues are raised again, but not in a way that sheds much new light on them.

There is one new development, though: Jazz is having memories of someone seductively touching him. In a separate sub-plot, his friend Howie is trying to put the romantic moves on Jazz's adult-aged Aunt Samantha -- Billy Dent's sister and a new character in the series. There was something about the Howie plot juxtaposed with Jazz's flashbacks that creeped me out a bit. (This also may have had to do with the fact that I've also read Lyga's excellent but disturbing Boy Toy, about a young boy who was sexually abused by a female teacher. So as I was reading Game, I spent a lot of time wondering if either Howie's plot or the Jazz-being-touched plot was going to go in that sort of direction. Or if the two were connected somehow.)

I was initially happy that, in Game, the action was moving to New York City, but ended up missing the small town of Lobo's Nod and crotchety sheriff G. William Tanner. In the first book, G. William served as a much-needed father figure to Jazz and also a source of comic relief.

I also wasn't 100% captivated by the "Hat-Dog Killer" case that Jazz is summoned to New York to consult upon. There was a long section of the book that was spent in a nondescript hotel room, going over and over a bunch of murders that had already happened. Despite a lot of gory details, the murders never felt very urgent to me, perhaps because it wasn't really Jazz's job to solve them and he didn't have much of a personal connection to the case. In the first book, the murders are of people Jazz knew.

I think mysteries and thrillers are most compelling when the case feels personal to the investigator, and when the reader feels that inexorable pull as the detective draws ever closer to the killer, and wonders if the tables will turn and the hunter will suddenly become the hunted. I never really felt that pull in Game. Yes, there is a reason for this, and it has to do with the ultimate resolution of the murder case, which is admittedly pretty darn clever. But waiting around for that clever resolution tried my patience just a bit. Even with eyeballs and other body parts being flung around and stuff.

Still, I will definitely read the next book in the Jasper Dent series. There's something about the character of Jazz that really, really intrigues me. In Game, Connie and Howie dig up some clues to Jazz's past and I'm interested to see where those lead. (I'm hoping that will also take the action back to Lobo's Nod.) I'm also hoping that the third book in the series begins to delve deeper into some of the intertwined themes (race; sex and violence; nature and nurture) that these first two books have set up.

If you love thrillers (or shows like Dexter) and have a strong stomach, you should definitely read I Hunt Killers. If you read and enjoyed I Hunt Killers, you should definitely read Game. Even though Game wasn't perfect for me, I'm still a big fan of this series overall.

28 comments:

  1. I'm so grossed out hearing about Howie and Samantha-that just sounds so unpalatable. I missed the first book when it was originally published but I am still interested in checking it out and if it works for me, then I'll move on to this sequel.

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    1. The relationship didn't go anywhere but I spent a lot of time worrying about it.
      But definitely check out the first book. I really enjoyed it, and I have high hopes for book #3.

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  2. I've been dying to read I Hunt Killers. Big Dexter fan. Too bad the sequel was a little bit of a let down. Often that happens though :-(

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    1. Yes -- definitely read it!!!

      In Game, I just wanted more character development and more of Jazz's relationship with his father, etc. But I am hoping to get that in the next book.

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  3. I'm always a little sad to hear a sequel not living up to the first book but I'm still excited to read these. :)

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    1. Well, I think it was that I liked the first book SO much. This was good, but not at the same level...

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  4. AHHH! So excited to read this book and there is going to be another book! Even better :)

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    1. Given the ending, there will definitely be more books. Which makes me happy :)

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  5. This is a really unique idea for a story, I am still not convinced it is for me. Glad that you enjoyed this one even if you liked the first better though.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    1. I have faith that book three will be AMAZING!

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  6. Hmmmmm.... After Dream Thieves and Isla, this is my most anticipated release for 2013. Boy Toy was phenomenal and I loved the way I Hunt Killers dealt with questions of nature vs. nurture, etc. etc. I can't wait to read this one so we can compare notes, although I'm a little nervous I'll have the same reaction. I want to just completely love it!

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    1. I felt that way too -- very high expectations. And I liked it. It just felt a little flatter to me. But can't wait to see what you think!

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  7. not sure about this one, I am not good with gore lol, so I don't think this one is for me - but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the review. I am sorry it didn't live up to the first one though ;)

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    1. There is a fair amount of gory stuff. I can't watch that stuff in movies or on TV, but I don't mind reading it.

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  8. Hmmmm. I think this might be too scary and violent for me (also those flashbacks worry me!). BUT I am really interested in the psychological aspects of this series, especially as you said the nature/nurture debate and Jazz's character in general. I think I'll hold off for a while, but will keep these on my radar if I get a sudden desire to read them (That sometimes happens!).

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    1. The psychological parts are awesome and I'm so hoping we get more of that..

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  9. I really love Dexter and I have read the first book, I can't wait until I can read this one. I'm definitely curious after your review!

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

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    1. I can't watch Dexter -- too much visual gore. So weird, but I'd rather read the gory stuff.

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    2. Oh, I had no idea this was on NetGalley ! I really liked the first one and can't wait for this one. I can't believe it's here.

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  10. I didn't read I Hunt Killers, but I remember when it came out and the poster was in the background of all the photos from the Kimberly Derting signing. It's funny the things we remember.
    I'm not big on thrillers usually, I don't know that this would be a series I'd enjoy, but I think I might look up reviews on the first one again and get a better idea. I do enjoy mysteries, just not when they are terribly gory.

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    1. If you can handle the Body Finder series, you might like this one!

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  11. I haven't read the first book yet, though I have an ARC. I just have to be in the mood for a gore-fest, and I just haven't been lately. Dead Silence was even a little gorier than I was expecting, but I can overlook that when it comes to Jay and Violet. I'm afraid I might never feel the same toward Jazz. Especially with the squicky possibilities you mentioned. Great review, though. I'm sufficiently aware of the gore, and yet I still want to pick it up...eventually.

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  12. Huh...everyone seems to be having the same reaction to this book. They like it - but not as much as the first and there seems to be a squick factor (technical term) about a few sexual things.

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    1. Yes, that part of it was a little confusing to me. But I'm still on board for book three!

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  13. I really loved the first book, and have this ARC waiting for me, I can't wait to start it! I agree that I will miss Lobo's Nod and Tanner, and it does suck that Jazz isn't helping with more personal cases, but I'm still excited about this series. I love Jazz's character, and the mind games between him and his father. I just hope I can keep my squeamishness under control. :-) Excellent review!

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  14. This is such a great review! You pretty much sum up my reservations with it that I wasn't quite able to articulate. I didn't feel that we got as much insight into Jazz's psyche in this installment. It felt more plot than character driven. The Howie subplot and Jazz's dreams and his aunt did all kind of have me wondering that too, so I'm glad it's not just me picking up on that creepy vibe!

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