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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Confusing, Far-fetched Psychological Thriller a Strange Disappointment

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As the former head of development for a t.v. company, 43-year-old Justine Merrison is done with stress.  She's moving to the coast to start a new, tension-free life doing absolutely nothing.  With her opera singer husband frequently out of town, it's up to her to take care of their 14-year-old daughter, Ellen.  Even that isn't usually difficult.  The only problem is that the move has changed Ellen, who's become surly and withdrawn.  When she begins writing a story for English class, Justine becomes concerned.  The tale is sordid and disturbing; also, it takes place in a house that is eerily similar to the one in which they live.  

When Ellen tells Justine about her new friend, George Donbavand, Justine is thrilled that her daughter finally seems to be settling in.  Then, George is expelled over a minor incident that upsets Ellen so much Justine promises she'll talk to the principal about it.  The principal informs Justine that George has not been expelled because there is no George Donbavand at their school.  George does not exist.  Stunned, Justine can't decide what in the world is going on.  Has Ellen created an imaginary friend to assuage her loneliness?  Is she playing a weird prank on her mother?  Or is the principal lying to cover up her unethical behavior?  When Justine starts receiving threatening phone calls, she's even more confused.  What in the world is going on?  It's up to Justine to make sense of her increasingly bizarre situation.

As you might imagine, A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah, is a tad confusing.  Actually, more than a tad.  A lot more.  Its premise is intriguing, but its plot is so convoluted and far-fetched that it just gets ridiculous.  I like a psychological thriller that keeps me off-balance.  This one does that, for sure.  I definitely wanted to know what was happening, but the big reveal felt anti-climatic.  Add an unlikable narrator to the mix and A Game for All the Family turned into a big disappointment.  I wanted to like it, but I just ... didn't.  Oh well.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of A Game for All the Family with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. I've read other reviews of this book that were similar to yours. I keep meaning to read something by Sophie Hannah and she's one of the authors that I still haven't gotten around to.

    By the way, you've been churning out the reviews. Are you about caught up? LOL

  2. Well, dang. I love the cover and I’m a sucker for stories like this. But unlikable characters and boring big reveals aren’t appealing. I might still try it though.


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