Game - Barry Lyga image

“Oh, New York,” he whispered. “We’re gonna have so much fun.”

I think I am once again in the minority here - but for a good reason this time. I actually liked this sequel quite a bit better than the first and I think I might have been willing to go with five stars if it wasn't for that awful non-ending, cliffhanger thing that Lyga felt the need to leave us with. After sitting on the edge of my seat and knawing my nails away for the whole book, I felt somewhat cheated by that lack of closure. It wasn't even lack of closure in a remotely forgivable way, it was straight-up, [a:Karen Marie Moning|48206|Karen Marie Moning|]-style drop the characters in a dire situation and fade to black... nasty.

There's quite a big difference between this installment and book one and I think this will either make it or break it for you. Book one has a mystery but the main story is the one inside Jazz's head, his fight to be a different kind of person from his father and to conquer the dark demons lurking just beneath the surface, the demons who whisper evil thoughts and try to bring out the monster he hides away. I found this all fascinating but, if I'm honest, by the end I was starting to get just a little sick of Jazz and his demons. On top of that, I solved the "mystery" in book one before I'd even hit the halfway marker.

I think [b:Game|15791383|Game (Jasper Dent, #2)|Barry Lyga||21502367] branches out from Jazz in a way that I felt was necessary for the series to not start dragging. This second book gives us more of Billy Dent (Jazz's father), more of Connie and more of Howie. I found it darker, more thrilling, creepier... and I really liked how Lyga has gone even further into his exploration of the psychology of psychopaths. Truly fascinating. There were a number of times when I thought I'd worked out what was going on and predicted some upcoming twists, but everything I guessed at was wrong and Lyga managed to pull out answers that were satisfying and unpredictable - unlike in [b:I Hunt Killers|7766027|I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, #1)|Barry Lyga||10644152].

However, I still think Jazz's original struggles are as important in this sequel as they were before. The main focus of Jazz's uncertainty in this book is not his involvement in the investigation but his relationship with Connie. As much as he wants to sleep with her, he constantly worries that sex will be a kind of trigger for him and turn him into a monstrous rapist like his father. Because his father was his first teacher, the lessons he grew up with were how to dehumanise other people - particularly women - and sometimes Jazz can hear that voice in his head telling him that people don't matter, that cutting into human flesh is "just like cutting chicken". I still really enjoy this aspect which separates this series from being like any other mystery series but, personally, I believe this sequel was more successful at getting the balance right.

I said it in my review of the first book but I'm going to say it again here: the biggest challenge potential readers of this series face is getting past the idea that the police would consult a teenage boy. It is quite unbelievable, no matter what kind of valid excuses Lyga attempts to throw our way. Because even though Jazz's position is unusual and certainly valuable to an investigation, the FBI aren't going to put a minor at risk when they have teams of experts that have spent years studying the behaviour of criminals and psychopaths. Ever seen Criminal Minds? When seeing those guys work, I have my doubts as to how much Jazz really is needed. But, yeah, if you make do without the realism, then you should love this series.

Though this book was darker than [b:I Hunt Killers|7766027|I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, #1)|Barry Lyga||10644152], in my opinion, there remains touches of the same humour that so attracted me to the characters in the first book. They are all funny, which makes them likeable, which makes me care, which means I know without a doubt I will be picking up the next book as soon as it's available. I'm so glad I still feel like I can recommend these books - it's just too bad that it ended that way, the wait to find out what happens is going to drive me insane.