I received this e-book from NetGalley and Pen and Picture in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: It’s been three years since Joe’s father vanished. Now seventeen, he is unaware that government agents are watching him in case his dad makes contact. Joe is too distracted by his secret girlfriend, midnight swims in the pools of strangers, free drinks from his buddies at the movie game, and the glamorous college student, Felicity. But his movie-esque existence and addiction to fiction is set to collide with a heavy dose of reality this summer when he discovers everything is not what it seems: his secret girlfriend wants to be the real thing. His college fling may have ulterior motives. And the government agents want cooperation to catch his missing father. All this and the three year old death of Joe’s girlfriend Alice are going to cause him to face some dark truths. It’s no longer a movie game. This is his life and he wants to win.
I’ve been eagerly anticipating reading this book for months now. With it’s main character being a teenage cinephile, the whole premise sounded like just my cup of tea, so when NetGalley approved me I was quite happy. Alas, despite it’s intriguing premise the story and it’s cast of characters are not only unsatisfactory, but downright annoying.
The main problem is the characters. For the most part they’re obnoxious, pedantic, and not relatable in any way. The main one, Joe is the worst of them. He should have been one in which I could sympathize, with his background filled with emotional trauma. I wanted to like him, truly I did, but his actions and the motivations behind them are atrocious, idiotic and at times bordered on sociopathic. Honestly! He aggravated me so much that after reading the first chapter I found myself grinding my teeth throughout the entire book.
The rest of the characters fare no better. Joe’s mother and father are caricatures of people who NEVER should have had children. Joe’s older sister Loren is a sweet girl, but completely clueless when it comes to Joe’s machinations. And finally, the two FBI agents who are supposed to be covertly surveilling Joe brought to mind memories of those old Keystone Cops movies, or perhaps Dumb and Dumber. Seriously. If I worked for the FBI and read this book, I’d want to sue.
The plot itself left me incredulous and frustrated. The events that unfold would never, ever, EVER happen. Well maybe in a fantasy, or a perverse alternate universe which this is not. It is supposed to be a dark comedy, but I found myself laughing in places that weren’t meant to be funny, which is never a good thing. I will say I enjoyed the scenes where Joe and his friends were playing the movie game. Unfortunately there just weren’t enough of them.
In my humble opinion The Movie Game could have been so much better than it was. Instead of being a thought-provoking portrayal of a young man who uses movies to escape the harsh realities of life, it’s juvenile writing and unbelievable and unlikable characters will leave many readers ultimately disappointed. I do want to say that the book has received some great reviews including one from Kirkus who called it “Fast-paced, funny, and dark” but I just didn’t see it. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood. I will say it’s a fast read which for me was a good thing since the only reason why I finished was because it was a NetGalley book and I felt obligated to read it. Now I kind of feel like this:
and a little like this: