This story had so much untapped potential, and while it was entertaining and I liked it, it could have been so much more. From the very beginning we know there are secrets about the game that only a handful of people know. The judges who remain anonymous throughout the competition also gain a substantial amount of wealth, and stories circulate of those who have escaped their fate by doing so. Greed, revenge, and hope are just some of the things which drive the competitors.
Soon the two find themselves teaming up with Dodge who's motivation for entering is revenge. Dodge has a crush on Nat, and she uses that to her advantage luring him into a similar arrangement to the one she made with Heather. She's hoping to up her odds of coming out of the competition with something padding her pocket.
As the game progresses. the competition gets more intense as more and more competitors are eliminated and those still in the game begin to show just how far their willing to go to win. Unscrupulous behavior rears its ugly head, but I felt Ms. Oliver could have kicked this up a notch. Perhaps because it's a young adult novel, she just didn't want to go there? Additionally, some of the tasks assigned weren't what I would have expected and seemed to be more aimed at angering certain residents in the small town than testing a person's fearlessness. It made me wonder who was in charge of the overall competition and challenges and what was their motivation?
Overall, I gave this one 3 out of 5 roses. It was a book about friendship, trust, loyalty, greed, revenge, (in other words human nature) and how we handle the fear and disappointments life throws our way. It's about growing up and realizing what's really important. I can see how some would compare this one to The Hunger Games, There are some definite similarities, but The Hunger Games way out classes this one in complexity and suspense. As for making this one into a movie? I think Hollywood may be on to something--the premise for the book was awesome. I do, however, highly recommend rewriting parts and making the story more gritty, developing the characters more, and making the contestants a tad more ruthless. I believe this is only the second book that I've ever said that about because usually I don't want Hollywood touching any part of a story. By the way, if you hadn't heard, Universal Pictures bought the movie rights to this one. We'll have to wait and see if it actually makes it to the big screen.