"I marvel how a single glance from my mother can feel like a shiny, protective shell all around me, as strong as the number 45 sunscreen I slather on my fair skin, the kind that won’t let any of the bad stuff in."This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas is written from the perspective of Olivia Peters, a Catholic high school student who is incredibly excited when she wins a writing contest held by the successful novelist and local priest Mark Brendan who then offers to become her mentor. Things quickly escalate though, and it begins to seem as if Father Mark is interested in more than just Olivia's writing. Olivia is confused and afraid, wondering what kind of game Father Mark is playing and what his intentions really are.
I tend to shy away from books with religious undertones, and once I realized how Catholic Olivia and her family were- her sister refuses to kiss a boy until she is engaged, she attends a school with nuns- I was worried that This Gorgeous Game wouldn't have the same appeal for Non-Christians that it may for Christians. That I would feel distanced from the story or that it would be overwhelmed with religious agenda. This is completely not the case. Despite her religion, Olivia could be any teenage girl, and despite his affiliation, Father Mark could be any authority figure looking to take advantage of somebody who admires them. I loved Olivia's teenage writer voice, and how she seems to be talking directly to the reader, reflecting on her experiences. At one point she says:
"I think how if this were a scene in a story it would be the moment when the protagonist feels the world is made entirely and perfectly of love."Already hinting at the darkness which is lurking as the novel progresses. That said, I did wish that the book had been slightly longer to give Freitas just a bit more time to develop the creepiness and fear that was beginning to permeate the story. I felt that compared to how time was spent on the introductory part of the novel, letting the reader get to know Olivia, that the ending was a bit rushed and I wasn't completely sold that Olivia had become so scared so quickly, and the time between her becoming scared and what she does next felt a bit too short for me.
I do feel Freitas dealt with an important but not regularly discussed issue which is what happens when an authority figure takes things too far- and where exactly that "too far" line is. The abuse of power that Olivia faces is an extremely important theme and it was great to read about it in a young adult novel. This Gorgeous Game was also very well-written, I found that Olivia was easy to relate to especially when it came to her feelings towards Father Mark. On one hand, she feels so lucky to have his attention, but on the other, she is creeped out by it. There were other characters that I wish I had been fleshed out a little more, such as Olivia's sister and friends as well as her mother, but as a main character Olivia was extremely strong in personality. The only thing I question about her is the fact that she is so perfect- she is beautiful, intelligent and a talented writer- and it just felt as if she needed a few flaws to make her more human.
Once you pick up This Gorgeous Game you won't be able to put it down. At only about 200 pages I read the entire thing in one sitting, captivated by Freitas' prose and ability to suck the reader into the story, paranoid about what is going to happen next. Freitas' talent means that you feel on edge the whole time you are reading the book, fearful of Father Mark and easily relating to Olivia's feelings about his attention. Although there were instances where I wished for more depth, This Gorgeous Game is a riveting read on an important subject in which Freitas tells a powerful and believable story.
Release Date: May 25th, 2010
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