Game by Barry Lyga
Series: Jasper Dent #2
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: April 16th 2013
Synopsis: 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.
I Hunt Killers was filled with bloody murder, dark humor, intriguing characters, and just downright incredible. The story of a boy who is afraid of becoming the killer his own father raised him to be was intriguing, and I couldn’t resist the darkness and suspense that surrounded the book. I was seriously excited for its sequel, Game. But, even though my obvious love for I Hunt Killers runs for miles, I ended up having an up and down kind of relationship with Game.
I want to start this review with the good: Lyga definitely delivered a story that gives a lot of entertainment, keeps the reader on the edge of his seat, and has many moments of surprise. Reading about Jazz take on the task of helping the police hunt down Hat-Dog, a serial killer who brutally kills his victims and carves hats and dogs on their bodies, and trying to get closer to finding his father Billy Dent was thrilling and I really had trouble putting the book down. The investigating that Connie did herself was pretty great, too.
Jazz, the son of a serial killer, is still a deep, interesting character, and getting a look into his psyche is still awesome. The doubt that Jazz has towards his own feelings–does he really love? Does he really feel guilt? Is he just copying what others feel?– and the worry he feels because he thinks that something might trigger the killer that may or may not be inside him felt believable and is often wrenching. “Excellent” doesn’t even begin to describe how well Lyga had written Jazz.
The supporting characters, like Connie and Howie, will practically kick their way into your memory. They are colorful, unique and have plenty of shining moments. The prose is clear and gets the job well done.
And now for my quibbles: I felt that more attention could have been dedicated to the internal conflicts happening within Jazz, because the depiction of a boy who fears what he is capable of becoming is what I read this series for. Game focuses more on the mystery and that’s fine, as the mystery us pretty darn amazing. But, Jazz’s complex character is what I desire to read about the most and I don’t think that giving his internal struggles more page-time would have hurt.
Lyga’s use of multiple point of views could get a little jarring and redundant. Sometimes the transitioning between views weren’t smooth and the amount of different point of views was a bit ridiculous. Game could have easily been told through just Jazz and Connie’s point of views.
I also think that Connie’s chapters could have been polished up more. Her feelings and thoughts don’t fit her character and her relationship with Jazz at times. For example, there was one moment in this novel where it is mentioned that Connie feared for Howie’s life for an instant after Jazz jokingly said something about kidnapping him.
I understand that one could get scared if a son of a serial killer said something along the lines of, “yeah, let’s kidnap a my best friend,” but Connie is portrayed as a strong, confident girl that loves Jazz and doesn’t fear him. Her feeling scared and uncomfortable when Jazz attempts to be funny doesn’t fit. (And if she really is scared, she should break up with him. Being scared of your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t a good thing, guys)
Another example would be when Jazz freaks out and falls out of the bed when Connie tries to take the kissing and groping up a notch. She is hurt and confused, which is reasonable. What is not reasonable is when she goes on to thinking about how other people who have gone through horrible trauma aren’t afraid of connecting to people and that Jazz might be being unfair to her. First of all, Connie should know that people react to trauma in different ways. Second, Connie should know, or at least try to understand, that Jazz is deathly scared of things that might trigger him, sex being one of those things.
Maybe I am being nit-picky but I loved Connie in I Hunt Killers and want a character like her to be written as good as possible. Lyga does get the hang of things around the two hundred page mark, though. And when he gets the hang of things, Connie is awesome 🙂
More time with Howie and Jazz together would have been nice. Howie and Jazz have a good chemistry and dynamics, and they always have me laughing when they interact with each other. Game doesn’t even have Howie and Jazz in the same town as each other for the majority of the story, which made me sad.
The dark humor is another thing I missed in Game. I Hunt Killers had tons of it, but Game only had a handful of sarcastic, dark comments and jokes. Lyga has skill when it comes to dark humor so seeing that skill not being displayed much is a little disappointing, to say the least.
Now that I look at what I wrote, I realize that it looks like Game is only a barely above average novel. But that isn’t true. Game has lots to offer and has a high entertainment value. Yes, it is flawed but also pretty kick butt with its gruesome murders, unpredictable mystery, and amazing main character. I really do think that Lyga will be able to do great things with the Jasper Dent series and am really excited for the third book.