Publisher: Penguin Books
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Wicked Games is a very interesting title. So when I chose to review this book, I took it at face value and mentally prepared myself to read about the dirty laundry of the characters.
Instead, I found myself reading a teenage rom-com flick, wedged into a book.
The book begins with a 17 year old guy begrudging his parents’ big move from Cedar Rapids in Midwestern USA to Ananthpuri, a small quaint town in Kerala.
Initially the book is focused on how Amit, our brooding protagonist and “a soft boy”, will fit into this society of tough people. Those areas of the story are intriguing, as we learn about the culture down South. Amit is finally enrolled in a school with a very unfortunate acronym, as he himself points out – Ananthpuri International School (APIS).
As the year progresses, this “soft boy” does manage to fit in, and in some cases very well. The lady love, Chitra, comes into the picture. Then onwards, she dominates his thoughts and thus, the story, till the very end. Most teenage decisions are based on raging hormones and this book is a beaming testament to that fact.
His friends Tobin, Samu, Jose, Jonas, Ruya, Joanna (among others) provide some comic relief with their unintended funny reactions.
The author gets immense credit for authentic portrayal of the interactions of the protagonist with his girlfriend, his friends and his parents.
True to his character as a teenage boy, Amit’s musings about how his mom still treats him like a child are sarcastic and funny. His awkwardness in handling any circumstance that is a little higher than the emotional intelligence level of a 5 year old gives us some hilarious and awe-inducing moments.
But the climax and subsequent ending take the cake because you just don’t see it coming.
Although the climax is a face saver, the narrative is bland. Some intended jokes just don’t work, while some serious moments make you roll your eyes at the foolishness of the situation.
The bone of contention is that the climax and ending are not handled well. The intensity is toned down, and the protagonist is almost flippant as he concentrates more on his lady love and not on the life-altering incident(s) that recently shook his social circle.
The zenith of Wicked Games is the title. And from there, it all just goes downhill.
This book is a one-time read for teenagers and people fond of teen books. People looking for it to be a good ‘adult read’, however, will find this book disconnected and dilettantish.