Thursday, May 31, 2012

This Gorgeous Game

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
4/5 stars
Frances Foster Books, 2010
208 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Library

I had seen this book around including that it had earned several rave reviews from fellow bloggers. But I really hated the cover. Then I read The Survival Kit and enjoyed it so when I was looking for a short book to read from the library, I picked up this one interested in learning what it is about.

Main character seventeen-year old Olivia is just so lucky because she won a writing contest that allows her to attend a summer seminar at a nearby university taught by the famous and respected novelist priest Father Mark Brendan. They meet beforehand with him praising her talent and assuring her she could go far. He invites her to fancy events and pours attention on her. Everyone says how lucky she is to have his focus on her but why does Olivia feel so uncomfortable? Why do Father Mark's phone calls start to seem sinister and why does his presence make her skin crawl? Why can't she eat anymore?

The book is divided into three parts and the first part shows how Father Mark comes to dominate Olivia's life. At first for me, it seemed fairly innocuous. I'm used to books only showing the parts of life that are relevant to a story and filling in blanks (for example people rarely use the bathroom in books and sleep is often barely mentioned but I know that as humans, it is happening). It was only as the section progressed that I realized just how much time she was spending with him and how very wrong it was. He demands her full attention, as if he is grooming her to be his protege and as if other people are interfering. Father Mark doesn't respect her time with her family, her friends, a potential boyfriend. He wants it all and will go so far as to stalk her.

Olivia starts to realize this relationship is unhealthy and that Father Mark is not behaving properly. At first she copes by ducking him, ignoring phone calls, emails, letters, and trying to put other people between them as a buffer. But since no one else knows the situation, the people in her life are confused by her behavior. They see respected Father Mark, generous with his time and money. It is not until Olivia reads his latest work, titled This Gorgeous Game, that she realizes the full derangement of Father Mark and which spurs her to go for aid from her very loyal family and friends.

I really tried to emphasize that Mark is a priest above because that plays a large role. Olivia attends Catholic school and both her mother and sister are devoted Catholics while Olivia's faith ends up a bit shaken by this experience, to say the least. His position is the main reason why people are so excited about him and trust him. As a man of the cloth, Olivia should have been able to have a mentor to guide her writing, not a predator who destroys her well-being. Happily when she goes for help, she gets it and Father Mark is removed from her life and punished.

Overall: A book that just pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages to see how Olivia is drawn into and then escapes Father Mark's web. Especially interesting for people who like to read about religion in YA-I would not describe this book as preachy at all.

Cover: After reading the book, I understand how the cover applies and I really do love the purple. Still I find it to be a turn-off and not the kind of cover that would entice me to pick up the book without the outside encouragements.


  1. Wonderful review! This is definitely the kind of story that pulls you in and keeps you reading.

    Glad you gave it a chance, despite the cover :)

  2. I agree with you on the cover, it doesn't do anything for me either. Glad to hear that the inside is better than the outside, but that the outside is appropriate for the story!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  3. I've only read one of her books (The Possibilities of Sainthood) and it was a lighthearted book. This sounds really good though-something different for a YA contemporary novel. I think the title and cover don't match but your review helps make sense of the title anyway. I will have to pick this up from the library sometime.

  4. You are so right about the cover. It wouldn't make me want to read it either. It looks like it would be a book about kidnapping or something. Other then that, this book does look very interesting. Thanks for the review!


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