Endgame: The Calling by James Frey – yet another teen dystopia. But actually it’s good!

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, teen book reviews, Uncategorized, Writing Thoughts


Throughout history twelve families have trained their children to be players in Endgame. And when meteors hit the earth, twelve teenagers across the world know that it’s time, leave their homes and congregate. They think the rules are simple: the tribe of the last one alive gets to live on. A strange alien being sets their first task – to find the earth key. Unlikely alliances, brutal torture and metaphysical speculation take place across the world as the players race for survival.

Gosh I’ve read about a lot of dystopias recently. Red Rising, Station Eleven, The Forever Watch (review coming soon), Frozen (not reviewing, didn’t like it). And I’m going to see The Hunger Games last night. But hey, though I was a bit tired of the genre by now, this was a pretty good one!

Though it started a bit all over the place – twelve characters are, after all, a lot of to get to know – I was nevertheless drawn into the mystery of the plot fairly quickly. The characters have very varied approaches and opinions to Endgame which serve to make it mysterious. Probably the thing that kept me reading the most was this – the desire to find out exactly what the mysterious Endgame is.

But though a few of the characters delve into this, mostly the question is vaguely ignored, which is frustrating. I hoped to be a bit closer to the answer by the end of the book.

The character we are probably most drawn to is Sarah Alopay, an All-American girl with perfect grades, perfect hair and perfect everything. Her normal-human boyfriend Christopher follows the contestants, to their annoyance. And a bit to my annoyance, but I’m sure a purpose will come in the next book. It was also slightly annoying how easily they managed to make their way around – there has to be an assumption that they are all extremely wealthy, but with ancient clans and tribes I suppose that works.

The other characters are completely varied; from a mother to a vile thirteen year old. But still, at least to start with it is hard to remember which is which, who is who, where they’re from, where they are and what they’re doing. It might have been better to focus on just a few as I didn’t really feel connected to any of them. Plus they’re all fighting machine geniuses who have been trained in almost everything, it seems.

But killing seems to be a different matter. Despite each contestant having taken around 20 lives before, we’re told, there were quite a few: ‘she decided she’d just kill him later’ moments. Whereas surely, if you were in that situation, you’d just go for it. I mean, of course, I wouldn’t. I’d hide in a cupboard. But for trained killers with the future of humanity at stake, it takes them a while to get on with any death.

Alongside the book there is a puzzle. It’s a real-life competition, with some fabulously large cash prize for solving clues that are similar to those in the books. I’ve not attempted it so I don’t know how much it ties in to the plot or not, but it’s a great idea! I love things the bridge the gap between the world of a book and the real world.

So, of the teen dystopias I have tasted, this is one of the best and I’m looking forward to the next book – where hopefully a few more of my questions will be answered.

Thanks Netgalley for the review copy.

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