Book Review: Game by Barry Lyga
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.
Have you ever read a book where it feels like the book attacked you, mauled you, and left you sitting stunned at the end wondering what the hell just happened? Game by Barry Lyga is that book. It chewed me up and spat me out. Its predecessor, I Hunt Killers, was one of my favorite books of 2012 and I was so excited when the sequel came out in mid-April. I was a bit daunted when I got my copy of Game and saw the book was huge at over 500 pages. I thought for sure Game couldn’t merit such length and that I would get bored or annoyed with it eventually. That was not to be. I couldn’t put it down.
I’m trying to make my reviews more interesting, so bear with me while I try a few things. (Lists!)
Things I Liked
Jazz Dent – Jazz makes the whole series. He’s crazy and disturbing and probably the most interesting teen character I’ve ever read. His powers of observation rival Sherlock Holmes, both in behavioral analysis and crime scene investigation. Jazz is the bomb, as they say. (Or time bomb, as the case may be.)
Connie and Howie – Game has awesome secondary characters and it was awesome to see Jazz’s girlfriend and best friend bust a move and really drive the plot along with their own actions rather than just being swept up along in Jazz’s wake.
Creepy to the max! – I’ve read a few murder mysteries in my time but Game has managed to make my skin crawl in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. I think this is mostly due to Jazz’s unique insight into serial killers and his often deadpan way of delivering those details as if it’s nothing special. It shows that Jazz himself is cracked in a very special way. We’re getting to see into the motives and minds of the killers in a way I haven’t read before. There is also a new sexual aspect to Game that wasn’t focused on in I Hunt Killers. As a female, this focus is both frightening and fascinating.
Never slowed down! – When I saw Game was over 500 pages long, I was sure it would lag and bog down. But the novel maintained a swift pace that hurries a reader along to the next big event and those 500 pages just flew by. I couldn’t turn pages fast enough!
Things I Didn’t Like
Repetitive – After a certain point, Jazz can get repetitive. Look, I get that Jazz’s big thing is trying to keep himself from turning into his Dad, king of the killers. Jazz struggles with two parts of himself, the part that was created by Billy Dent and the part that society tells him he is supposed to act and think like. He’s worried that having sex with Connie will trigger him into violence and he’s constantly analyzing his every action against the sliding scale of crazy. But after a while, you just kind of want to slap him.
Jazz is a genius/Everyone else is dumb as a rock – I said before that Jazz’s powers of observation are impressive. Unfortunately, Jazz’s powers are shown by making everyone else, the NYPD and the FBI, look like idiots. This is a common flaw with teen characters in adult situations. But the men and women of the NYPD and the FBI are trained professionals and having Jazz constantly one up them is ridiculous. Jazz may have an unique insight into serial killers growing up under Billy Dent’s tutelage but he has not been trained and it’s really quite annoying when he does that continually, like the whole of the police force are idiots and couldn’t catch fish in a bucket.
Believability – The NYPD and the FBI seek a teenage kid for help with a murder investigation. Yep. Uh huh. I believe that. Not. While I could believe Jazz getting mixed up with G. William and everything in small town Lobo’s Nob because it honestly fell into his lap, I can’t accept that people from New York would seek Jazz out for help in the same situation, no matter who his father was.
Stupid Girl Syndrome – Connie, what the hell do you think you are doing? Are you nuts? You seem like a smart cookie, so I can’t understand why you are suddenly acting like the dumb blond in the classic horror movie. What the hell?
Game by Barry Lyga is my first 5 star rating of this year. It has problems but the amount of awesome in this book makes up for any flaws. My biggest beef is the ending, in which we are left completely hanging with no resolution at all and all the characters in dire situations. I think I may die of frustration before the next book becomes available. I rarely enjoy a sequel as much as I liked Game. There is no second book slump for this series. I Hunt Killers was great but Game bumped it up to a whole new level of intense. I have to advise readers to read cautiously if you have triggers for violence or gore. It’s a little gross in some places. Game is also more sexualized than I Hunt Killers was and that might put some readers off. Mature readers only, people.