Where a very rare situation is the conflict.
First Published: 4th March 2011
Date Reviewed: 1st July 2013
To continue being a book reviewer for the newspaper, Abby must agree to take part in a survival reality TV show. She’s not interested in the show and sees through it all, but the rewards offered by her employer (besides keeping her job!) are too good to miss. She gets on the plane to the Cook Islands. It’s evident she doesn’t fit in with the other contestants and it’s also evident she may have betters skills than them as well. But she wouldn’t have bet on finding the arrogant one attractive. Teaming up with Dean may help her win, but how real are people’s personalities when $1million is at stake?
Wicked Games is a novella that uses a basis everyone will be familiar with. Clare holds to the stereotype, making her reality show exactly what you’d expect. But she doesn’t let it take over.
This is both good and bad. It is good for the obvious reason – why would anyone want to read about a (regular – considering we’ve The Hunger Games) reality show when there are plenty of them to watch? It’s bad because it inevitably means that once the romance begins a lot of what could have been written about the show (the concept of survival, for example) is lost.
The characters are pretty good. Abby loses herself a little once she falls for Dean, but she never changes completely except in circumstances where the premise of the book dictates the need for it (interviews, for example). Abby is one of the better prepared contestants and her position as a reluctant participant provides the reality check for the rest of the understandably stereotypical cast. (In this case that the cast is stereotypical is understandable – the undeveloped characters make sense and it would be hard not to assume that their very lack of development was not a conscious decision.) Dean, too, is stereotypical, and again, he’s meant to be – though Clare has cause to show the reader how appearances can be deceptive.
So it would be fair to say that Clare uses the premise as much as her audience would be okay with, and instead of looking into uncomfortable ‘challenges’, focuses on the longer-term consequences, the sort that take a while to be covered in the media. The book is predictable enough that you know what will happen, detailed enough that that doesn’t matter.
Except in certain cases, for example the set up between Abby, Dean, and a few other contestants. The idea of teamwork to win is in itself understandable, but the way Clare goes about it suggests a lack of belief in reader intelligence. The reader can see through the set up so much that it’s an unnecessary addition – Clare makes Abby suddenly oblivious to something the Abby of the previous pages would have spied from the first moment. Inevitably when the ruse is revealed it is of no surprise to anyone but the characters.
Wicked Games has a fair premise, an understandably predictable plot, and good exploration of reality, fantasy, and that in-between that makes up television. But it could have used more planning.
It’s nice that it’s not a wicked game in terms of the show itself, and not wicked when you consider the reality of humanity and competition, but it may be wicked for the reader who has to wade through the water. It’s light, it can be fun, and it’s ripe for summer, but whether it comes in first place is up for discussion.
July 21, 2014, 9:26 pm
I like her other books :)
July 22, 2014, 9:08 pm
I confess it’s hard for me to get excited about a book involving a reality show, given I don’t often watch those types of shows myself.