Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: The Word Game

By Melissa Amster

I'm not usually inclined to read books where I worry about children potentially being harmed, but something drew me in to reading Steena Holmes' latest novel, The Word Game, and I'm glad I took a chance on it.

For overprotective parent Alyson Ward, any time her daughter, Lyla, is out of sight is reason to panic. So it’s a big step for her when she lets Lyla attend a sleepover at her cousin’s house. Comforted by the knowledge that her sister, Tricia, is the chaperone, Alyson does the one thing she never thought possible: she lets go and trusts that her daughter will be safe.

But Alyson’s sense of peace is short lived. When Lyla comes home the next morning, she reveals something that could tear apart not only their family but also the entire community. Now, Alyson and Tricia must confront their painful shared past as they come together to help a little girl who they fear might be harboring terrible secrets similar to their own. Will the sisters be strong enough to face their demons in order to protect the child, even if it means telling their most private truths?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The premise of The Word Game is very interesting and thought-provoking. Having adolescent girls whose stories don't mesh adds to the tension of the plot, as it's everyone's word against each other and you don't know who to believe. There was an element of mystery that kept me guessing for a while, especially when Alyson and Tricia allude to their past. The characters and dialogue were strong and compelling, which enhanced the story.

What didn't work so well was having Ida (Alyson and Tricia's mother) as a narrative voice. I felt she could have expressed her thoughts just through dialogue within Tricia or Alyson's narrative and that would have been fine. Part of this has to do with the picture Alyson painted of her. She was hard to like because I was seeing her through Alyson's eyes. She did become more likable later on though. I didn't feel like the German dialogue was much of a fit to the story either. I think it would have been good to have Lyla, Katy, or Keera have their own narrative. I liked that Myah had a voice in the story so we could see Keera's side from a different angle. Also there was no sense of location or age of the adult characters (Alyson, Tricia, and Myah). The only way I knew what time the story took place was because it featured a holiday meal.

Overall, I think everyone should read The Word Game, as it might help someone else in the position of one of the characters around whom the story centers. It ranks up there with Laura McNeill's Center of Gravity as an important book that everyone should have on hand. Even though it is fiction, it felt realistic. It might be hard to digest if you're the mother of an adolescent girl, but it's well worth reading.

Thanks to Lake Union for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of the BookSparks 2015 Fall Reading Challenge.

More by Steena Holmes:


Janine said...

This book sounds very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation and great review.

Liz Parker said...

This sounds like it could be good. Which reminds me - I think I am supposed to follow up with Laura re: Center of Gravity, lol ... oops.

Anonymous said...

Melissa - Thank you for this great review .... Can't wait to read it. I'm starting it tonight! I appreciate, also, you mentioning my book, Center of Gravity!

Always love your thoughts on new books!