Review – The Game by Teresa Toten


Dani Webster had played The Game with her sister, Kelly, for as long as she could remember, but now it is a hazy memory as Dani looks up from the floor of the isolation room at Riverwood Clinic. She remember the vodka and pills. Slowly Dani emerges from the painful effects of substance abuse, and begins to adapt to life at Riverwood, a psychiatric treatment facility for "teens with problems." Teens like her roommate, Scratch, an admitted self-mutilator. Or Scratch's friend, Kevin, whose family can't accept his homosexuality. As she recovers from her physical trauma, Dani must confront a deeper emotional trauma. There's the cool aloofness of her mother. Her father's abusive perfectionism. Kelly's refusal to answer her letters. Fragmented memories of the last Game. She can't fit all of the pieces together. The Game is an extraordinary story of betrayal, anger, guilt, confusion and dread and their brutal effects on the mind. It is also a tribute to the healing effects of compassion and friendship, and to the strength we can summon, even in our weakest moments.


The Game is the captivating story of how a teenage girl deals with the dysfunctions and consequences of living with an abusive father, a mother who doesn't want to face reality and a little sister she has vowed to protect. For as long as Dani can remember, she has felt extreme pressure to live up to the unreachable standards of her father. Her life has been dedicated to trying to achieve just a nod of recognition from him, but more often than not, what she receives instead is condemnation and punishment. For Dani, these are just the facts of life and she readily accepts them, what she is not willing to accept is the possibility of her little sister Kelly living this way also.

In order to protect and shield Kelly from the horrors of their home, Dani creates a role playing game that quickly evolves into a alternate world for the sisters. When things get too tough for them, they escape to a neighbourhood ravine to do battle with an evil being bent on destroying all that is good. However as Dani grows older The Game is no longer enough to distract her and she turns to drugs as a new escape, while still trying to hold The Game together for Kelly.

But somewhere along the way things went wrong. Kelly realizes this when she wakes up in Riverwood Clinic with her memories scrambled and her body falling apart due to the effects of alcohol and drugs. Worried about Kelly being alone at home, Dani concludes that she must get out of Riverwood and back home as quickly as possible. Through her journey Dani gathers around her a tribe of friends who will ultimately help her on her way to becoming whole again.

The Game is both heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal doses, as Dani's emotions are so vividly narrated throughout. This is a novel that showcases the true strength of adolescence in overcoming the obstacles of pain, loss and addiction. Dani is a heroine worthy applause for her self-redemption and renewal. Beautifully but simply written, The Game speaks to the reader and tells a story that cannot fail to spark a flame of hope into a roaring fire of encouragement.

Published by Red Deer Press

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