Game (Jasper Dent #2): review

April 4, 2013 2013, 3.5 star books, barry lyga, horror, Wendy 52

game barry lyga i hunt killers review

Title: Game
(Jasper Dent #2)
Author: Barry Lyga
Rating: 
 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date:
April 16, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC from publisher

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga was one of my favorite books last year. Between the graveyard humor and the taut plotting and the excellent character sketch of a boy who fears he may become a serial killer like his father, I was both intrigued and excited by the story.

I have more…mixed feelings about the sequel. While it’s certainly still well-researched and well-executed, the focus has changed from suspense–albeit with gory underpinnings–to a more typical thriller. Since it’s written like adult crime fiction with a teenager suddenly in the middle, it’s a little harder to suspend disbelief that the authorities would rely so heavily on a 17-year-old’s input (to the point of taking him across state lines), no matter what his parentage.

Things I liked: it’s still fun to be in Jazz’s head. The secondary characters, including his best friend Howie, are interesting and diverse. There are some good action scenes. It’s fascinating that Jazz is afraid that having sex with his girlfriend Connie will trigger latent violent tendencies, even though he deliberately chose a girl whose ethnicity doesn’t fit the usual victim profile; Jazz’s self-awareness in general, and his attempts to keep himself in check, are so well done. And dear heaven, I will never, ever be able to look at a grapefruit spoon in the same way again.

Things I struggled with: Distracting limited multiple POVs. Creepy flashbacks of sexual encounters Jazz has blocked from his mind–they reminded me of the voyeuristic ones from Boy Toy. A TV episode-style cliffhanger. Investigators who are portrayed in a fairly stereotypical way in order to serve the “boy detective” premise. A lot of scenes written from the perspective of the killer’s, which is rarely a technique I find engaging. And unfortunately, every time the words “Hat-Dog Killer” popped up, I read “Hot Dog Killer,” which didn’t help matters at all.

The thing is, my favorite part of Jasper Dent’s story is not the crimes in and of themselves, but the riveting psychological profile of a boy who’s on the brink of making the choice to ignore his baser instincts and violent training–or to unleash the scary ass monster that you know is hiding inside him. The skilled observations of human behavior present in I Hunt Killers take a back seat to cat and mouse, Lecter-like machinations in Game’s more action-oriented plot, and as a result I was less inclined to overlook the more unlikely scenarios–and less inclined to care about what happens to Jazz himself.

But am I still excited by the series? Hell, yes. There’s a lot to be said for books that push boundaries, and even those that make us uncomfortable. I may have mixed feelings about this particular installment of the Jasper Dent saga, but the author’s writing, gift for narrative voice, sense of humor, and excellent research will ensure I’ll read just about anything he’s written. I’m just hoping that the final book in Jazz’s story makes a return to the things I loved best about the first book: the origin story of a serial killer, or the survival of a man who chose good over evil. Thrillers are a dime a dozen; it’s the complexities of individual human drama and emotion that make a story stand out.

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. 

PS–have a look at Barry holding a tray of bloody cupcakes. If you like.

52 Responses to “Game (Jasper Dent #2): review”

  1. Jo DM

    I read the review before I knew it was a saga, but I liked it :) Great review, I want to read it, sounds like something I would like

    • Wendy Darling

      Just one more book after this one…I think! I hope so, anyway. I feel like the series could easily go off track if there are too many, although I’ve enjoyed the two books I’ve read so far.

      And thank you! I hope you enjoy this when you get around to it.

  2. erin

    Thanks for the great review! During one of the massive sales this last week or so, I was finally able to pick up book 1. I’m so excited to start reading!!!

  3. Vivien

    Hmmm. I did enjoy the first book. I found it refreshing since not many YA novels dive this deep into the serial murders, thoroughly. Maybe this is just a sophomore slump. I am still eager to read this and the sequels. It’s different enough in the YA field to stand out for me.

    • Wendy Darling

      Agreed, the first book was very unusual. This one was just more of a typical (and more adult) thriller to me, but I’m still invested in the series and looking forward to the next one! I’m glad you are too.

  4. Jenna D.

    Oh no, I was so excited to finally start book 1 in this series in anticipation of book 2, but now you have me worried. BUT… I am still going to read I HUNT KILLERS and NOT cancel my order for Game. ;) Here’s hoping I enjoy it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, definitely still read IHK! I insist upon it. :D And don’t mind me, I’ve been seeing reviews pop up that are all for the more action-oriented story, so it could just be my cranky-pants taste. ;) I hope you enjoy this series, too!

  5. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    I think I had a bit better luck with this one than you did but I did feel as though I had to stretch my imagination a bit more than I had to for IHK. I couldn’t really believe NYPD would call him in for a case that didn’t even involve his father, but once I let my mind go a bit a got really into the story. How freaking frustrating was Connie in the second half? Arrrrgggggg!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, that set me off on a bad note with the book, Jenni–if he’d at least been 18, I might’ve been a little more forgiving of the farfetched “let’s make Jazz our primary source” thing.

      It got better for me later on, though. And I agree, less Connie (although I like her), and less other POVs, would have been preferable.

  6. Rebecca

    Oh my gravy!!! Now all I can think about is what the crud did he do with a grapefruit spoon?!?!?! I LOVED I Hunt killers. I have been wanting to read Game (Not that I knew the title at the time) ever since I finished I hunt Killers. I love how you can give so much insight without real spoilers. I hope to get my hands on this one soon:)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah, well….it’s a scooping device with a serrated edge. What do you think it was used for? :D

      And thanks, it’s a challenge to review sequels without spoilers sometimes, but I rather enjoy the challenge. I hope you like this one just as much as you did the first, Rebecca!

  7. Jasprit

    I remember you love for I Hunt Killers last year Wendy, it not typically being my sort of read, your review convinced me to give it a try, I am ashamed that I still haven’t picked it up :( I’m glad you were able to enjoy Game somewhat despite the change of direction it took. And that your still excited about picking the final book up! Wonderful review Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes–I still liked this, despite the more critical tone of the review. It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and I had to be honest that I liked the first book’s direction more. Still, I know other readers have enjoyed the change, so who knows.

      I’m very curious to see what you’ll think of this, Jasprit!

  8. A Canadian Girl

    I still need to read I Hunt Killers, Wendy! The sequel sounds a bit disappointing but still seems like a fun read. Lol, I think I’d keep reading Hat Dog Killer as Hot Dog Killer too. What is a Hat-Dog Killer?

    • Wendy Darling

      Well….let’s just say hats and dogs have something to do with a serial killer’s signature at crime scenes and leave it at that, hah.

      I would enjoy reading about a Hot Dog Killer, though. :P

  9. Tina Kohrman

    I would really like to read this series. I like some stories of this nature. I also love that you give honest reviews. Thank you so much for that.

    • Wendy Darling

      You can count on honesty from us, Tina. :) Even if it kills us, hah.

      And I hope you will try the first book sometime! They’re not for everybody, but if you enjoy thrillers that are sometimes gory, you’ll probably like it.

  10. Sunny Duvall

    Ooh I love multiple POVs! Although I don’t like disorganized ones. I still need to read something of Barry Lyga though. Serial killer and survival are definitely interesting things. Love the review!

    • Wendy Darling

      You might not mind the way this is written then, Sunny! But yes, definitely give BL a try. I HUNT KILLERS was my first book by him, but I’ve since read a few others and he’s an excellent writer. Even if he sometimes makes me uncomfortable, hah.

  11. Melliane

    it’s sometimes difficult to have multiple POVs, it can be disturbing. I haven’t tried this series yet but maybe one day.

    • Wendy Darling

      I don’t mind multiple POVs if they’re done well and add to the story, but I do think this series would be better if it focused on just Jazz’s POV–or at least cut out some of the others. Just my opinion, though, I know other people have enjoyed it.

  12. readingdate

    I think I first heard about this series from you last year, Wendy, and I had to pick up I Hunt Killers. Now that the sequel’s out I can read the books back to back :)

    The sequel sounds like fun too, even though it’s a different set-up than the first book. There’s another book where the police rely on a teen and that bothered me too. I do like YA horror/thrillers for a change of pace though!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes, please do give these a try! I’m very curious what someone reading both books back to back would think, Lucy.

      And the second one is still good for sure. I’m just being all cranky. ;)

  13. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    Hmm…I’ve never heard of this series. It definitely seems intriguing, despite the bits that didn’t work for you. I’m glad you enjoyed the story overall, Wendy. Another great review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, it’s a terrific series overall, Andrea! I really like it, despite my mixed feelings on this one. And thank you. :)

  14. Vegan YA Nerds

    I would like to press pause on 2013 because there are still so many books from 2012 that I haven’t had time to read, I Hunt Killers being one of them.

    It’s great that you still enjoyed this still sequel to a degree, and it’s a reminder to me to get a move on with book one!

    • Wendy Darling

      This series isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely fantastic if you like your thrillers on the more gruesome side, hah. And tell me about it, there will never be enough time in the world to read all the books we want. AND THEY KEEP PUBLISHING MORE.

  15. Curling Up With a Good Book

    I am reading it now and it is not grabbing me as much as I Hunt Killers did but I am hoping it picks up!! I also just got approved for The Eternity Cure so I may have to read two at at time! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      It’ll pick up. :) The ending chapters in particular are non-stop. And good for you, I’m always in the middle of several books at once!

  16. Eunice

    Aaaah, I still haven’t read the first book! My tbr is totally in chaos. I need to really start making schedule (but I’m afraid I’d still end up not following them, I’m not exactly the most organized person). Sigh. Anyway, I’m glad that even though this one didn’t turn out to be as good as its predecessor there are still things that you enjoyed about it and you’re still overall excited with the whole series! I’m probably going to wait for all the books to be available before starting this. Ha! Brilliant review as always Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I don’t know how people who schedule reads can do that–I am such a mood reader that there’s no way I could follow a set schedule!

      And yeah, definitely a series worth reading. :)

  17. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I’m still not sure about how I’ll take this series. It sounds intriguing and I like the psychological aspects and that it pushes boundaries, but I don’t know if it will be too far out of my comfort zone. Though if you and Keertana liked it, that’s a good sign. Honestly the idea of those flashbacks makes me incredibly uncomfortable! Knowing there’s a cliffhanger here, I’ll probably hold off reading these until the series is complete (is it just 3 books?). That way I can read them all in one chunk and totally freak myself out…maybe not a good plan after all.

    • Wendy Darling

      I don’t know if you’ve read a lot of thrillers with violent crimes, Lauren, but I’d say that if you have trouble with adult thrillers with gorier details, you might have trouble with this as well. Just depends on your comfort zone.

      And yes, I found the flashbacks, though not explicit, disturbing. I understood why they were there, but it doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.

  18. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    I’m embarrassed to say I have had a personalized copy of I Hunt Killers on my shelf for almost a year and it remains unread. It somehow just kept getting sidelined. :( I’m sorry this sequel didn’t quite live up to your expectations. I am excited to start these books though, and I have found myself to like the addition of the killer’s POV in these sort of books, if kept to a minimum.

    OMG I don’t think I could have eaten those cupcakes. lol

    Great review Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, don’t sideline it any longer Sara! It’s a terrific series. I’ve seen a couple of people say they’re actually glad that the book has more action and less psychoanalysis, so you know…it’s just what your taste/expectations are. And if you like killer POVs, you may like #2 better than #1 anyway.

      And hah, what does it say about me that I felt absolutely no hesitation in ripping into those bloody cupcakes? :D

  19. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Ooh, I’m not sure I’d be a fan of those flashbacks…they sound really spooky (which, I guess, adds to the overall atmosphere of the book, right?). I swear, I feel like every review I’m reading today is for a series I NEED TO READ…*moves this to the top*

    • Wendy Darling

      They really aren’t that many flashbacks, Mary, but they did make me uncomfortable. That’s probably the point though, hah. I just didn’t like it! Oh, well.

      Do, DO give this series a try sometime. :)

  20. Karen

    That’s too bad that it didn’t’ live up to I Hunt Killers. It does sound like a fascinating premise for a series.

    I almost never care about the killers POV either.

    I like an author that takes chances and pushes boundaries though, particularly in YA so I’m still going to give this series a try. Even with the lukewarm sequel it sounds above average.

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s definitely a unique angle, especially for YA. I love this author’s style too, and I like that he is constantly challenging himself and us! And my mixed feelings aren’t a reflection of the merits of the book, more of my personal feeling. On merit, it’s a strong 4 stars at least.

  21. Keertana

    I am ecstatic that this series still continues to be a good one; that it pushes boundaries and never loses that aspect of its charm. But, like you, I loved I Hunt Killers so much because of that complex and brilliant psychological analysis and to see that it isn’t as present in this one is disappointing. I’ve also heard that there’s a cliffhanger, so maybe I’ll hold off on reading this until the next book is out. Wonderful review, Wendy!(:

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I’m so interested in hearing your opinion of book two, Keertana! I don’t know very many people who have read it yet and I haven’t had a chance to read other reviews yet either.

      There IS a gigantic, al;kasgoueaFksjl! cliffhanger. The equivalent of Lassie getting stuck in a well, hah. (Except more violent.)

  22. Rachel

    I don’t care to have a POV from the killer either, Wendy. I’m usually more interested in the main character’s thinking and sometimes it gives away parts of the mystery that should be kept mysterious, lol. I still need to read the first of this series. I have a feeling I’m going to love it. Wonderful review. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      The first book is excellent–I loved it, Rachel! And really, the second book is excellent as well. It’s just not what interested me in the series, if that makes sense, so it was a bit of a surprise/adjustment.

  23. starryeyedjen

    I still haven’t read my copy of the first book. D’oh. Your review brought the lulz, though, and I am now so intrigued by what happens with a grapefruit spoon that I must make it a priority simply so that I can get to this book and find out what happens. Also, I read that as Hot Dog Killer, too, so I’m afraid that will be stuck in my head now. Oops. :P

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah, thanks Jen–I think you’d like Jazz’s sense of humor. I’m glad I’m not the only one who read that as Hot Dog Killer!
      and you know, once it’s in your brain, it doesn’t go away, hah.

      As for the grapefruit spoon, I’m sure you can imagine. Scooping device with a serrated edge… @_@