Friday, April 25, 2014

The Traitor Game

B. R. Collins
Bloomsbury Press
Reviewed by: Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Michael and his friend Francis share a secret passion for Evgard, the fantasy world they have created together. But then Michael finds a note in his locker, revealing that their secret is out. He immediately suspects Francis, and tries to get revenge by telling the school bully—known affectionately as Shitley—that Francis is gay, which guarantees Francis is in for a pounding. But did Francis really betray his friend? Or is Michael really the traitor?

This gripping account of a troubled friendship unfolds both as a contemporary story and as a compelling glimpse into the world of Evgard.  The Traitor Game tackles difficult issues without hesitation and will surely draw in gamer and fantasy fans as well as contemporary fiction readers.

My Review

After enduring bullying at his old school, Michael Thompson gets a fresh start at St. Anselm’s. His mother introduces him to Francis Harris and the boys become fast friends. They have lots in common. Both are outsiders, don’t make friends easily, and share a common fantasy world called Evgard. The boys meet every weekend, spending long hours crafting detailed maps and working out Evgard’s history.

Trouble starts when Evgard’s secret is out and Michael believes Francis is responsible. Instead of confronting Francis with his suspicions, Michael exacts his own revenge by outing Francis to the school bully, causing a deep rift in their friendship.

Evgard’s characters unfold parallel to the events in Michael’s and Francis’ lives and while I found the fantasy story more compelling, neither story would work very well without the other. Michael’s low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, homophobia, and inability to communicate effectively with his mother and Francis all show how the earlier bullying incidents have affected his life.

The characters were believable and the dialogue and thoughts felt authentic, but I had a difficult time caring much for them, especially Michael. Though the story is well written and complex, it took me a couple of weeks to get through it, mostly because Michael annoyed me so much and the pace was rather slow. I tired quickly of Michael’s hesitant way of communicating and his introspection, particularly when I felt that so many problems and misunderstandings could have been avoided if only he spoke up and was honest with those who cared about him. 

Also posted at Goodreads.

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