Game of Fear by Glede Kabongo follows Abbie Cooper in her final years at an elite New England private school. She’s attractive, at the top of her class, and doesn’t care about drama because ‘she has her priorities straight’. Despite trying her best to stay on the straight and narrow a mistake from her past comes back to haunt her, and threatens to tear her life apart.
This is the kind of book I would have loved reading as a teen. It has high school drama, love triangles, a mystery to solve, and offers a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle of the rich and famous. Imagine if the Baby-Sitter’s Club grew up, got rich, and had to deal with stalking and extortion instead of the occasional missing pet.
Unfortunately, this book also has a lot of the pitfalls characteristic of the teen drama genre. The hottest boy in school constantly harasses Abbie and eventually blackmails her into going on a date with him. Of course, this is viewed as cute and charming, and he’s romantically rewarded. Narratives like these are why some people interpret “no, I’m not interested” as playing hard to get.
The book also has an underlying tone of conservative attitudes towards sex, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Abbie wants to save her virginity for someone special, and she has every right to choose that. However, every other girl who has had sex seems to be vilified. All the stereotypical mean popular girls are ‘easy’, and Abbie and her friends are quick to slut-shame any other girls they have drama with. Abbie also gives the hottest boy in school a lot of grief for having slept around, but they explore his motivations more and give more depth to his character. She seems a lot more forgiving to his previous escapades than towards most of her female peers.
But why does it have to be an issue in the first place? If the author had brought up sex issues that teens regularly face like lack of knowledge, consent, or societal pressure than it would have been a great way to start a discussion relevant to modern teens. Instead we get the age-old narrative of ‘save your virginity for someone special, and don’t sleep around unless you want to be called a slut’. Not the greatest message for teens.
Besides this major flaw the book was actually quite enjoyable. It has a diverse cast of characters, Abbie’s group of friends even call themselves ‘The Rainbow Posse’ because they’re so diverse. Questionable naming, but the idea behind it is commendable. If you have a taste for love triangles and romantic drama, this story hits all the right notes. And most importantly, the mystery had me guessing throughout the entire story trying to figure out who was the culprit.
The book even touches on a few more serious topics. Drug abuse, sexual assault, and teen suicide are all major plot points which reflect problems that modern teens face. Despite being heavy subjects the author does a good job of respectfully exploring the topics without letting them take over the focus of the narrative.
Overall this was an enjoyable read. I wouldn’t necessarily buy the book, I would borrow it from a friend or pick it up from my local library. Despite it being the second book in the series it reads as a good standalone novel. I had no problem getting into the story even though I had not read the first book. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes good mystery with a healthy serving of romantic teen drama on the side.
by Gledé Browne Kabongo
Sometimes good girls do very bad things…
Academic overachiever Abbie Cooper has her future all mapped out. As senior year at her elite New England private school kicks off, she’s focused on one goal: getting into the Ivy League. But even good girls have dark secrets. One morning, Abbie discovers a cryptic note in her locker; I know what you did, hypocrite! Justice will be served, The Avenger. Then a photo arrives in the mail. It captures in great detail the explosive secret she’s kept hidden from everyone—the shocking blunder that could get her expelled from St. Matthew’s Academy, and keep her out of the Ivy League for good.
Determined to protect her future and the people she loves, Abbie is drawn into a diabolical game with no limits—a game she will break every rule to win. For a price, The Avenger assures her that her secret will remain safe. There’s only one problem: The Avenger may not exist at all. So who’s been stalking Abbie with anonymous text messages that disappear after they’ve been read? Who’s out to ruin her and why? To uncover the horrifying truth, Abbie must play the game all the way to its stunning conclusion.