Wicked Games by Sean Olin
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups
By the time they crossed the Georgia state line, they’d forgotten all about the green Mazda, but if they’d looked, they would have seen that it was still behind them…
Well… holy shit. I nearly passed this one up because of all the negative reviews – just look down the page at all those one stars – but it was Khanh’s review that piqued my curiosity. I often find myself being in the minority on books, though it’s usually a case where I wasn’t feeling the magic from a book everyone else is raving about, so I decided to take a chance on this one. My thought was “I’ll just try a few pages and see…” and the next thing I knew it was over and my heart was literally racing.
Personally, I think whoever did the design and marketing for this book got it all wrong. This is not a lusty teenage romance full of empty-headed characters; in fact, it’s far closer to being a psychological thriller of the Abigail Haas variety. I was literally hooked. It’s frightening. It’s engaging. It has well-developed characters. Being a teen makes most people experience the edge of insanity from time to time and I think Olin shows that, and then proceeds to show how someone can cross the line bit by bit every day.
The, in my opinion, AMAZING characters:
This book is about three people – Lilah, Carter and Jules – who do some pretty damn awful things. But I felt like characterization and careful understanding and sympathy are never neglected by the author. These people are appalling. Carter is dating Lilah but cheats on her with Jules, and Lilah is absolutely fucking crazy (no exaggeration). And yet… and yet I felt completely absorbed into their lives and stories. It was a rare occasion where cheating, though still not forgivable, is told in such a way that I understood and sympathised with both parties.
Similarly, I loved the way Lilah’s character was handled. I can’t help smiling to myself now as I recall how bitter, twisted and insane she was. She is a fantastic portrait of a teenage girl’s gradual descent into insanity. She is interesting, she is a villain, but she’s more than that too. Because, whatever she may go on to do, I felt such a sadness for Lilah – especially towards the beginning – because I remember how it feels to be an angsty teenager and worry that you’re not good enough and nothing will ever be right again.
I’m surprised more people don’t sympathise with Lilah’s self-destructive personality. Obviously it’s completely unhealthy, but I found her a highly sympathetic character in the beginning of the book – maybe this says something about me as a teenager ^_^ – and there were certain scenes that seriously wrenched at my gut. I think it would have been very easy for the author to drop these kinds of characters into boxes but he steered clear of them all. There was zero slut-shaming, the guy was sweet and gentlemanly… I liked Wicked Games a lot.
Really bloody scary:
I do not get scared. I swear. Only with real life spiders because they’re obviously up to something (why else would they need EIGHT legs, hmm?). But this book freaked me out. Like heart-pounding “the door’s locked, right? are you sure???” kind of freaked out. It’s just that I’m more likely to be affected by scary real life things than scary horror things because, duh, I’m probably not going to get eaten by a werewolf anytime soon. And, honestly, parts of this book are genuinely terrifying.
Also, I LOVED the ending. I thought that was just sheer brilliance, to be honest. I’m not sure if the author has set it up for a sequel or if he intends to leave it hanging there (which would be deliciously evil), but I’m good with both.
So, I’m pleased to be in the positive minority for once, but I’m a little surprised. I wonder if part of it has something to do with the way this book appears to be something it isn’t… a lot of readers – sometimes myself included – don’t like to get something they hadn’t bargained for. We don’t want to pick up a “dystopia” and get a romance, even a well-written one. It’s like… I like chicken and I like ice cream but I wouldn’t want to get one when I ordered the other. Okay… what am I even talking about anymore? Just: maybe take a chance on this one, you might be surprised 🙂