Saturday, September 7, 2013

REVIEW: The End Games by T. Michael Martin

Title: The End Games
Author: T. Michael Martin Website Twitter Facebook
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 384
Buy It! amazon
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: It happened on Halloween.

The world ended.

And a dangerous Game brought it back to life.

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.

But The Game is changing.

The Bellows are evolving.

The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.

And the brothers will never be the same.

T. Michael Martin’s debut novel is a transcendent thriller filled with electrifying action, searing emotional insight, and unexpected romance.

First Thoughts: I wanted to like this book so badly, but I just couldn’t. I kept going, thinking it had to get better, but, for me, it didn’t. So sad, because it had so much potential and intrigue.

Gosh, I wanted to like this book so badly. I watched the book trailer, read a recommendation by John Green, saw promotions all over the internet - I thought this book would be a hit of the summer! That’s why I felt SO frustrated while reading it...errr! I honestly thought about abandoning the book and trying it sometime later, but I kept thinking it had to get better. Maybe I just wasn’t getting it. Maybe there was some big twist about to happen. Maybe the ending would blow me away. Well, I kept on waiting all the way through the last page - it didn’t get better.

Here’s why I wasn’t a fan - it was confusing! I pride myself on being a good reader, and man, did this book confuse me. I know part of the confusion was on purpose, trying to keep the reader guessing with an unpredictable storyline, but overall, I didn’t get it. I reread more in this book than any in my recent memory. Here are some of my sticking points:

  • The Writing Style - it wasn’t told in first person, but felt like it was trying to. The author tried to include too many of Michael’s (the MC) thoughts, without actually allowing the reader into Michael’s head. It made him feel incomplete to me. I never fully understood him.
  • The Characters - as alluded to above, the characters did not seem well-developed. I honestly didn’t care about any of them, except maybe Patrick, and even then, only because he is a little kid with a cognitive disability. Plus, Michael seemed to know things that he shouldn’t; it almost seemed like a cop-out for explanations.
  • The Storyline - totally didn’t get it! Maybe it’s because I’m not into video games or maybe zombies aren’t really my thing (although I LOVE The Walking Dead), but I really didn’t get it. I think there were too many twists, but the twists aren't really explained, hence my habit of rereading.
  • The Ending - not to give anything away, but the ending seemed entirely too convenient. Actually, a lot of the conflicts were resolved much too easily without enough explanation. I guess I didn’t really buy into their immediate danger, when everything seemed to work out without a hitch.

The most positive experience I had with this book, was the teaching moment it provided for me and my students. As an avid reader myself, I sometimes find it hard to connect to my non-readers. This book helped make that connection. I explained my struggle to them, as if I was trudging through the story; I mean, it felt like work picking it up every night before bed (sometimes - gasp - I actually chose T.V. over reading). I told them, when they feel like this, they need to abandon the book and find a new one - that “perfect” book is out there waiting for them. Of course, I didn’t do a great job modeling, as I did push on all the way through the end of my book; however, I had a few apathetic readers return their books and find something more enjoyable - success!

Now after saying all this, I do think this story would work for a specific type of reader - video-game playing, zombie fans who like action and could care less about characters, preferably boys. If you fit into that category, by all means, give it a try and let me know what you think; for some reason I’m still pulling for this book.

Final Thoughts: This book brought my reader’s guilt to the surface. I wanted to abandon it but couldn’t. I wanted to like it but couldn’t. I wanted to give it a higher rating but couldn’t. I’m still feeling guilty about not liking it more, but at least I stuck with it until the end.

Who Should Read It? If you’re a fan of well-written characters, set this book aside. If you like graphic, violent, zombie books, pick this one up. I think a lot of video-game-playing boys would really enjoy this story. In fact, while telling students why I didn’t enjoy the book, I actually had a few boys perk up and ask to borrow it because it sounded “awesome”. Definitely not a universal read though.

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