by Teresa Lo
On Halloween night in Deer Creek, Kansas, Jake Victor, Ashley and Ashton Gemini, and Kristin Grace convince Ronnie Smalls to meet them at the town cemetery, which local folklore has always rumored to be the Gateway to Hell. Their intention was only to scare him, but soon the wicked prank becomes actual horror as the group learns the Gateway is all too real. After demons snatch Ronnie and drag him to Hell, the terrified foursome vow to keep what they had seen a secret.
Two years later, the group receives a mysterious letter, an invite to play a high-stakes game in Hell. If they win, they release Ronnie’s soul as well as their own from eternal damnation. If they lose, they are stuck in Hell forever. Choosing to play, they face nightmare after nightmare as each level escalates in intensity and forces them to face the seven deadly sins.
Inspired by the legends of the Gateway to Hell in Stull, Kansas, Hell’s Game explores the cruelty that teenagers can inflict upon each other as well as the horrors that exist amongst mankind. It is a dark, action-packed young adult novel that will both scare its readers and make them question the true meaning of evil.
It has been quite a long time since I've read any horror stories, though I grew up on them. I read Stephen King by a shockingly young age. Of course, I also devoured R.L. Stine, Lois Duncan, and there's one more that I remember loving, but for the life of me cannot remember the author's name, or the name of any of the books. It is probably unhelpful to note that Hell's Game reminded me of the the books by the author whose name I can't recall.
That being said, let's talk Hell's Game! The story was engaging and a quick read. I was genuinely interested in how the game was to be played, the shifts in group dynamics between the "friends," the motives of their host, and of course, how it would end. I must say that while I guessed some the ending, most of the specifics were a surprise (which I love, of course). I liked that even the unlikeable characters had their own backgrounds that allowed you to empathize with them. And I liked that there were negative consequences to being a complete jerk.
Hell's Game is written from an omniscient point of view and Lo definitely milks it; maybe too much. I've made no secret about my general apathy toward this point of view, and the constant jumping from one character's inner thoughts to another's still feels slightly lazy. However! I don't see how Lo could have written this from just one character's point of view and still gotten the mileage out of everyone's emotional baggage. Maybe if it could have been by chapter, or at least clear breaks in between. Perhaps it would have felt cleaner to me. But, now I'm being pretty picky and completely subjective. I was never confused as to whose thoughts I was reading (which is more than I can say for House of Mirth, which is one of my all-time favorited books), it never detracted and you get used to it.
My only other complaint is the language. Be aware there are several f* words and other vulgarities. While I can tell that Lo used restraint as to the placement and that they were in character, I don't have to like it.
Overall, it was a fun and creepy escape. Thanks to the author for the free copy of Hell's Game in exchange for an honest review.
I try to rate these reviews by the kind of book they are (It isn't fair to compare a YA Horror novel to a classic Russian novel after all!) - keeping that in mind I would give Hell's Game