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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green [Review + Giveaway]

Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Thriller
Publication.Date  May 14th 2013 (Hardcover edition)
Published By:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
WebsiteJacqueline Green 

Truth or Dare
My review copy:Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

When a simple round of truth or dare spins out of control, three girls find it’s no longer a party game. It’s do or die.

It all started on a whim: the game was a way for Tenley Reed to reclaim her popularity, a chance for perfect Caitlin “Angel” Thomas to prove she’s more than her Harvard application. Loner Sydney Morgan wasn’t even there; she was hiding behind her camera like usual. But when all three start receiving mysterious dares long after the party has ended, they’re forced to play along—or risk exposing their darkest secrets.

How far will Tenley, Caitlin and Sydney go to keep the truth from surfacing? And who’s behind this twisted game?

Set against the backdrop of Echo Bay, an isolated beach town haunted by misfortune, Truth or Dare is a highly charged debut that will keep readers in suspense from beginning to end.

The world was coated in fuzz, shapes shifting in and out of focus. A bookshelf. A couch. Walls as red as blood. And something else - no, someone else. A person, blurry, but there. Fear filled every inch of her. Panic. She tried to back away, but she was too dizzy. too unsteady on her own feet. She tripped, slamming into the wall. Pain shot through her shoulder. And then the blurry figure was there, looming over her, breath warm on her face. She was trapped. Nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. A hand reached out for her, long slender fingers coming closer, closer.
Maybe it's like everyone is always saying: pretty girls come to Echo Bay to drown...
The water was everywhere. It was soaking her clothes and in her ears and burning her eyes. It was down her throat and behind her ribs and inside her bones. It wrapped around her like a cocoon, like arms, like chains. She waited for the terror to hit. But all she could think was: Finally.

     Imagine someone knows all your darkest secrets. Now, imagine that person is not your friend. That person has a grudge against you. And that person wants you to play a game. A dangerous game of truth or dare, with your life at stake. Will you play? 

     I really looked forward to reading Truth or Dare. The plot line sounded very promising, bringing to mind classic teen horror movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, or popular series such as Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars. Teens forced to play a twisted game in order to protect their secrets? Sounds like a lot of fun! Sadly, my initial excitement quickly turned into disappointment when I realized that Truth or Dare was more of a slow-paced teenage drama and less of an actual thriller. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. For the most part, it was merely an OK read for me. 

      What I really enjoyed about this book is the setting. The story is set in an eerie, isolated town of Echo Bay. I loved the feeling of seclusion and vulnerability this setting offered. Echo Bay is a small town, everyone knows each other. If you make a mistake, everyone will know and remember that. People will talk and point fingers. That alone made the story a lot more exciting. And then there was also the Lost Girls Curse. The story of three beautiful local girls who, over the course of years, had each died in the ocean during Echo Bay's historic Fall Festival is something that both scares and fascinates the local folk. With this year's Fall Festival only days away, everyone in Echo Bay is wondering one thing: Is the Lost Girls Curse finished? Or Will the ocean claim yet another life?

     As much as I loved the premise, I found the plot line to be very convoluted and twisty. Every one of the characters is - at one point or another - a suspect. Personally, I knew right off the bat who the darer was, no surprise there. I thought the "big reveal" was rather predictable - even the cliffhanger ending involving (GASP!) yet another mysterious note was completely foreseeable, considering this was the first in a series of books. The story itself, while a bit short on logic and full of cliches, wouldn't be half as bad if only the pacing was better. While I can handle the flaws in the story and characters, I just can't stand a book that crawls along at a snail-like pace. For a thriller, Truth or Dare was remarkably suspenseless. There was no real sense of danger, no burning need to discover who the "bad guy" was, no feeling of being trapped, cornered or stalked. I expected to be scared, thrilled or - at the very least - thoroughly creeped out, but in the end I wasn't even entertained. I suspect it's partly because a lot of time is spent on talking about characters and their pasts, their personal issues and relationships with others. In the end though, all the lengthy passages, dialogues and flashbacks managed to do one thing (and one thing only): weigh down the plot line, making it dreadfully slow and boring. 

     There were a couple plot threads that had the potential to be something poignant - plot threads involving bullying, infidelity, mental illness, abandonment, homosexuality and more - but the author never explored any of them in depth, preventing me from getting truly invested in the story. This story would have been great as either fast-paced thriller or slow-moving issue book, but as a mixture of both it just didn't work for me.

     I found the characters to be quite stereotypical, underdeveloped and often times unbelievably, unforgivably stupid. Their actions were random and weirdly motivated (if at all). On top of that, it seemed to me that all these kids ever cared about was their social status, popularity and how they're perceived by others. Personally, I find it impossible to care about or relate to characters who only care about themselves. We're talking kids who would gladly destroy your life to make sure their little secrets remain hidden. And the secrets they were trying to protect? With an exception of one person, they were all laughably silly. I know teenagers tend to be overly dramatic. I know their whole lives revolve around school, friends, parties and first crushes. And trust me, I know that when you're sixteen and you spend 80% of your time around your friends / at school, bad reputation and mean gossip can really hurt you (teenagers can be really cruel), but I still find it hard to feel for selfish characters who would rather see others getting hurt than own up to their mistakes or face their ghosts. 

     The ending, while more twisty than a corkscrew lollipop, did not provide any real closure. Nothing much was explained, the characters didn't seem to have learned anything, nor did they become more wise or mature. It was... pretty much punchless. Maybe all that is yet to come, maybe we'll see some character growth in the next instalments, I'm just not sure if I have enough patience to stick around and wait for that to happen.

Little, Brown has generously offered to give away one finished copy of Truth or Dare to one lucky US reader

Share with us your most memorable game of Truth or Dare and enter via Rafflecopter below!
Giveaway ends June 3rd
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