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Book Review: Four-Letter Word by Christa Desir

Publisher’s description

four letterEight friends. One game. A dozen regrets. And a night that will ruin them all, in this high stakes gripping story of manipulation and innocence lost, from the author of Bleed Like Me.

Chloe Sanders is ready for a change. She’s tired of watching her best friend Eve turn away from her for the more interesting and popular Holly Reed, and tired of living with her grandparents while her parents volunteer overseas. Chloe spends her days crushing on a guy named Mateo, being mostly ignored by Eve and Holly, and wishing the cornfields of Iowa didn’t feel so incredibly lonely.

Then a new girl transfers to her high school—Chloe Donnelly. This Chloe is bold and arty and instantly placed on a pedestal by Eve and Holly. Now suddenly everyone is referring to Chloe Sanders as “Other Chloe” and she figures the only thing to do is go with it.

Chloe Donnelly introduces all her friends to a dangerous game: a girls vs. guys challenge that only has one rule—obtain information by any means necessary. Chloe Donnelly’s got power over everyone—secrets she’s exploiting—and she uses it to keep them all playing. When the game turns nasty, soft-spoken Mateo chooses Other Chloe to help him expose everything Chloe Donnelly has done. But neither realize just how much the truth could cost them in the end.

Amanda’s thoughts

Playing a game that turns out to be surprisingly high-stakes, full of secrets and lies and manipulations, unsure how you even got involved and wishing you could just opt out? That’s the plot of Desir’s new book, but that’s also pretty much just a fairly apt summary of the teenage years, right?

 

Chicago transplant Chloe Donnelly seems so cool and sophisticated, at least to the girls in small Grinnell, Iowa. She immediately becomes the leader of Eve, Holly, and Chloe Sanders, who, much to her chagrin, immediately becomes “Other Chloe” despite being the original or “old” Chloe. Chloe Donnelly introduces them to the game Gestapo, sort of like Capture the Flag but with a word to figure out. And much higher stakes. She gets four boys to play against the four girls. The winners can ask the losers for a favor that they can’t say no to. Other Chloe, rightfully so, finds the concept of the game and the “platinum favor” to be rather terrifying. It isn’t just a fun game—it’s built all around uncovering secrets and blackmail. She sees it as ultimately a sex game. Her crush, Mateo, sees it as about secrets. But Chloe Donnelly says the game is really just a device to get what you want, to go after things you’re too afraid to try for, to uncover information you otherwise wouldn’t have. Other Chloe wants out, realizing there’s nothing fun about this game for her, and it seems like most of the other players would like to get out of the game, too. But it’s not that simple. Chloe Donnelly makes it so everyone has to keep playing. The platinum favor could mean secrets could stay hidden. But getting to that favor, finding a way to win, is far more complicated than anyone thought, especially when they start to realize they don’t actually know anything about Chloe Donnelly.

 

Readers who love suspense and intrigue will enjoy this story. The twists and turns the game takes makes it hard to figure out just what exactly everyone is hiding or who may be aligned with whom. It also feels impossible to know who, if anyone, to trust or believe. It’s difficult to sort out who may be manipulating someone or lying just to advance in the game. Readers don’t really get to know the large cast of characters, which makes it even more suspenseful, because so much feels hidden or in question. A unique twist on what it means to negotiate friendship, dating, sex, and high school. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481497374
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 05/15/2018

Video Games Weekly: Video Game Genres 101

videogamesweeklyThis week, I wanted to reach out to those of you who are not very familiar with video games. So, I thought it might be helpful to write out a list of video game genres and definitions! I will probably be linking to this article frequently, and will update it as new genres/terms emerge in the video game realm [and the ones I accidentally skipped].

Video games, like books, can be broken down into different genres. Video game genres, however, tend to represent either the story experience or game play mechanics, but a game can have many “genres” assigned to it. These two factors create endless combinations, and are what makes the video game medium so unique!

Story Experience Genres

Action – This is a broad term for a game that has an emphasis on physical challenges. Action games usually have a player controlling one character, and navigating an environment while battling enemies or obstacles. Many “action” games are also “adventure” games. One example is Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

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Adventure – This is a broad term for a game that has an emphasis on puzzles and interactions with the game environment, and do not require quick reflexes. Typically, there is less violence compared to shooter games, but that is not always the case. Many “adventure” games are also “actions” games.

Party – Party games are created intentionally for groups of people to play together. They’re often simple to learn, and have a variety of “mini games”. Think of any Mario Party game.

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Role Playing – Also known as “RPG”. It’s a broad term for a game where the player controls one or more characters in a well established world. World exploring is key to this genre, and usually the character has to complete “quests”. In a way, you can think of it as Dungeons and Dragons, but in a video game! One example of a role playing game is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

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Simulation – This game tries to emulate a real life experience, or a fictional reality. There are subgenres like sports, real life, and construction simulation games. An example of a popular simulation game is the Sims franchise.

Sports – This game can fit into “simulation”, but even then sports games can be broken down into more genres. There are sports games almost for every sport, ranging from football, baseball, to racing, even including Quidditch!

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Strategy – These games have an emphasis on planning and skillful thinking in order to win the game. The game is usually slow paced so players can carefully plan their moves. There are subgenres such as “turn-based strategy”, which means players alternate taking turns to move their pieces. A popular strategy game is the Civilization franchise.

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Game Play Mechanics

Massive Multiplayer Online Games – As the name suggests, this is a type of game where many players play together online. There are subgenres like “massive multiplayer online role playing games”, also known as “MMORPGs”, which are the most popular. The best example is the game World of Warcraft.

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Platform – Also knowns as “platform jumper” games, where the player has to navigate a series of platforms to reach the end, often with enemies in their way. Well known platform jumper games are Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

Sandbox – This type of game takes place in a “free world” where players can do whatever they wish. A sandbox game can have goals or objectives but at its core, players are meant to roam free without any restraints. The best example is Minecraft.

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Shooter – This is the oldest genre in video games. As the name suggests, players have to destroy a target or enemies using a weapon. The game continues as long as the player survives. Players develop quick reflexes due to fast paced gameplay.
First Person Shooter – Also known as “FPS”. This is a sub genre of shooter games, where the game is experienced from the character’s perspective. This point of view is useful for players who want to focus their aim, and have a “real” gameplay experience. Well known FPS games are Call of Duty and Halo.


Third Person Shooter – Also known as “TPS” or “3PS”. This is a sub genre of shooter games, where the game is experienced outside of the character’s perspective, i.e. players can view both their character and their surrounding environment, as if the camera is behind the character. A well known 3PS games is Gears of War.

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By Alanna Graves