The Assassin Game

The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
Published: 2 August 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Suspense, Thriller
Obtained: Bought

At Cate’s isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game—it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target?

I was immediately drawn to this book on the shelf, with its gripping title and creepy-looking cover.  I’m a complete sucker for thrillers, especially when they’re done well, and the blurb on the back of the book seemed exciting.  The blurb, however, really talks up the overall plot of the book, making it seem more intense than it is.

I wasn’t entirely disillusioned with the book – the descriptions throughout are lovely, and the setting – a rainy, foggy, isolated island boarding school – is a lovely place for a thriller to take place.  There’s a bit of a natural-feeling love story gem packed within these pages. I found my gut burning for the romance more than I felt my heart pounding for the suspense.  Cate, the main character, has multiple love interests throughout the book.  I won’t gripe about it, though, because the author handled it well – there was no pining over “who to choose.”  I think it’s important to note that Cate knew what she wanted from square one.

Cate herself wasn’t a terribly interesting character, but she felt rather real to me, and I could relate to the level of “boring” she projects upon herself.  She plays the game mostly from a standpoint that she wants to feel connected to her peers, and feel a kinship with them – pretty run-of-the-mill for a high school girl.  She is not without extreme emotion, frequently toiling and yelling and confronting, and she’s not afraid to show a feminist disposition and call some of her guy friends out on their bullshit.  She is full of a lot of anxiety, about relationships and friendships.  The character is easily relatable to the intended reader demographic.

There were a lot of side characters in this story, and a lot of them melded together into a big blob of “guild members.”  Most of the Assassin Guild, the elite group within the school that plays the game, consisted of “popular girls” and “jock boys,” and it’s hard to tell them apart.  Cate’s close circle of friends – Marcia, Daniel, and Vaughan – had a bit more personality to them.  Vaughan had a particular loveliness, and he was full of energy and sparkle every time he was introduced!  He was a bit off the rails, in a charming manner. The most concerning thing to me here was that Marcia, who is supposed to be Cate’s “bff,” was a horrible friend.  She’s so frequently absent.  There’s more than one scene where Cate is trying to have an important conversation with her, and Marcia blows her off entirely.  Daniel, Cate’s other “best friend,” never shows up as a friend figure within the text.  His character arc, which included an episode of sexual assault, was handled distastefully, felt very incomplete, and painted him as being this ghastly inhuman villain rather than as a human being who needed real help.

That being said, I was spurred toward the end due to the extreme suspense.  A person went missing toward the end of the book, and the author had me completely fooled about whodunnit.  However, this doesn’t mean that it was a good mystery – I felt as if the author had intentionally veered away from planting clues about the many killers that were present throughout, giving us only clues that pointed towards red herrings.  It wasn’t an incredibly satisfying close, and the epilogue left some large, scary, and important facts, revealed about the main character’s love interest, completely unaddressed.  Overall, I think this would be a fun, easy, and suspenseful read for teens who are new to the genre.

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