Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Game

The Game

Monica Hughes
For ages 13 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2010   ISBN: 978-1442409392

It is the Last Day and Lisse is sick with worry. Shortly she will find out what job placement she will get and she fears that she, like so many others, will end up unemployed. Being unemployed is a terrible thing to be in Lisse’s world, for the unemployed are looked down upon by everyone else and they are segregated from those who have a purpose in life.

More than a hundred and fifty years ago human beings almost wiped out their own species due to the pollution that they created. Robots were built that were able to keep “the industrial world running.” Now robots also serve as teachers, nurses, janitors and countless other jobs, which means that there are very few jobs left for humans to do. Lisse cannot understand why they don’t stop making robots so that the young people have “a chance” in a life.

It turns out that Lisse was right to be worried. She, alas, is not considered suitable for any of the few jobs that are available for young people, and she is going to spend the rest of her life depending handouts from the government.

Lisse and her classmates all board a bus and then the next stage in their life begins. Lisse’s best friend Benta is one of the teens who has a job to go to and so Lisse has to say goodbye to her. She is surprised to find out that seven of the young people whom she knows quite well are also now unemployed and they have been assigned to the same Designated Area (DA) as her. The eight young people will have to stay in the area and manage as best they can with the crumbs that the government gives them. To all intents and purposes their DA will be like a prison.

The teens decide to stick together and they are given an old warehouse to live in. They know that the world outside the walls of their new home is a dangerous place and so they make sure that it is secure by scrounging for parts to build a security system. They also manage to find some furniture and mattresses that someone else has thrown away. Pooling their resources and using their skills, the young people figure out how to survive in the strange world that they find themselves in.

Lisse and her friends hear about something called The Game, but try as they might they cannot find out much about what it is or where it is. Then, without any warning, they all get an invitation to “participate in the The Game.” They are given a date, a time, and a place to go.

Using their invitations as tickets the young people board a train to get to a place called Barton Oaks. Lisse has never been on a train so this experience is thrilling for her. When they get to Barton Oaks they are given clean overalls and boots to change into and they asked to sit in some reclining chairs. They are told that The Game is a similar to the “societal games of the past” but instead of war games where people shoot each other with dyes or low-energy laser beams, Lisse and her friends will be seeking a “treasure” that will be “ultimately defined as the fulfilling of your common need.”

Not knowing what this really means the teens lie back in their chairs, relax as best they can, and then they wake up in the middle of what looks like a desert. They start exploring, hoping to find clues that will lead them to the treasure that they were told about. They manage to climb a mesa that allows them to see that there is a lake in the distance. On the way down from the mesa Lisse falls and the visit ends with them all waking up.

The young people talk about their experience. Perhaps they were hypnotized or it was all some kind of dream. They really don’t know. What they do know is that they want to go back and eagerly wait to see if they get another invitation.

The hoped for invitations arrive, and so they go back to Barton Oaks and they sit in the chairs again, and they end up in the other world once more. This happens again and again, and each time the travelers learn something new. When they get back home they teach themselves new skills which they will be able to use when they are in The Game. They never imagine that all their sessions in the The Game are preparing them for an adventure that will change their lives forever.

This thought-provoking novel will challenge readers to think about the path that they are on in life. Are they going in the right direction? Are they thinking about all the possibilities that are open to them?

The characters in this story grow and change in many fascinating ways, and we are kept in suspense as the narrative unfolds. Teens and adults alike will enjoy this unique tale.