To capture the love of Jenny Thorton, Julian--a visitor from a dark world--draws Jenny and her friends into forbidden games; the contest for a human soul. The prize is Jenny's freedom. The stakes are all of their lives. Jenny's friends are determined to help her win. But Julian is the master of the Game. Jenny's most desperate fight will be with him, this eerily handsome boy with electric blue eyes. He knows her deepest secrets, her darkest fears. He has almost infinite power. And the only thing he wants is for Jenny to surrender to him--body and soul.
Rating: 4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love psychological thriller
High point: The twists and turns
Low point:It's a tad bit melodramatic
Reader maturity: 13+
The Forbidden Game--The Hunter, The Chase and The Kill--is tied for 2nd place as my favorite series by LJ Smith. running closely behind Dark Visions. (Well, it might actually claim 2nd place fully as it own, but don't tell The Vampire Diaries).
I read the first two books in this series once when I was in elementary school, and I remember thinking that they were so captivating. Julian's game was so twisted, and I was rooting for Jenny the whole time. Lucky for me, The Forbidden Game aged well, and when I bought the series for myself this year, I enjoyed them just as much.
The writing is typical of LJ Smith; it can be a bit over the top, but somehow it's suited to the story perfectly. And the story, like Dark Visions, stands apart from the usual paranormal vampires and werewolves. Jenny and her friends are tricked into what is essentially a game of life or death as they battle Julian for victory. That might sound a little flat, or like a poor retelling of Jumanji, but it's actually very psychologically intense, with nightmares and hidden fears coming true at every turn (or staircase).
The first book, The Hunter, is amazing on its own, but I enjoyed finding out more about the history of Julian and the game in the sequels. Since it's mostly a lead-in to the last part of the story, The Chase is a little forgettable, as middle novels tend to be, but the story picks up again in The Kill with lots more action and emotional drama.
The only thing I don't like about The Forbidden Game, specifically The Kill, is the ending (which is why it's behind Dark Visions and possibly tied with The Vampire Diaries). It's not that it isn't a good ending--it is--or that it's too abrupt or out of line with the characters--it isn't. It's just that...well, let's just say that if I'm Team Somebody, the Somebody I'm rooting for took home the consolation prize.
Overall, though--personal preferences about Team Somebodies aside--The Forbidden Game is great addition to the paranormal genre, a book about things that go bump in the night that'll make you wish you hadn't picked it up quite so close to bedtime.
Title: The Forbidden Game: The Hunter, The Chase, The Kill
Author: L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Book Source: Purchased