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. -(excerpt from Goodreads)
My Thoughts: I was absolutely sold on giving this book a shot after the first glance at that amazing cover. LOOK AT IT. But then when I read the summary an saw that there is a sibling relationship – brothers! – and a West Virginia setting, I was ALL ABOUT reading this book. It looked a little horrifying and I had high hopes.
I just loved the setting of this story – West Virginia is one of my favorite regions of the United States, and its difficult landscape was written into the story perfectly. The hills and mountains and woods of this area only served to make the story creepier as the terrain gave more and more places for the Bellows to hide. When the brothers would stop for supplies or any other reason, the Bellows would just come out from everywhere! I think the author did a great job using the setting to his advantage as far as the story is concerned (and it’s also cool that he set the story in his home state).
In terms of the writing, it takes just a little while to get used to the way The End Games sounds and feels. This is most likely because of the age of the young male characters – these boys are serious Gamers. Before the world went crazy, they spent a large amount of time playing video games. They are able to use the survival skills from various favorite video games in real life to save themselves or collect food or supplies (I LOVED how this was written into the story). Although I am not very familiar with most of the games mentioned in the book, it wasn’t hard to adapt to the lingo and understand what they boys were talking about when they were relating the games to their real-life survival, and I think that the way Martin incorporated his obvious love for games into this story is really fun.
As far as characterization goes, Michael and Patrick are great. Michael is one young person that I wouldn’t want to trade places with for anything – he has the weight of the world on his shoulders with his own survival and he is also responsible for his brother’s survival as well as his brother’s special needs – plus he is harboring some guilt about some past issues in their home. Michael handles everything well – as an appropriate person of this age would, I think, and perhaps maybe even better – but it can often be tough to get into the head of a 17-year old male. I say that just to mention that occasionally I felt a little bit of a disconnect with Michael, but I blame this on the circumstances and the stress he was under more than anything else because overall, he was pretty dang awesome. And 5-year-old Patrick was a great kid – even at his young age, he was forward-thinking, always trying to help his older brother out with their survival and playing The Game and keeping them both moving. I know that I’ve already said it, but I’m going to repeat here that I just loved the relationship between these two boys because throughout everything, it is obvious that these two are most important to each other, above all else.
More notes on characterization – there are some great secondary characters in this story – you guys know that I love secondaries – and there is, I think, more than one villain (this is potentially a discussable point!). I’ll leave readers to figure out the villain(s) on your own, but I will say that the overall characterization is a ton of fun – colorful and at times, humorous. There is also a romance in the book, but it is one that I affectionately call ‘romance-lite’ because it is subtle and remains in the background while everyone is much more focused on surviving.
Ultimately, The End Games is action-packed, relatively fast-paced, and creepy. I will admit to liking the beginning part of the story much more than I liked the second half, but I still was able to enjoy the story very much and was on edge while I was reading it, which is all in the makings of a good apocalyptic zombie survival story. I recommend The End Games to fans of survival stories, apocalyptic stories, and stories with really excellent sibling relationships. People that enjoy reading books that have some crazy religious groups in them (like me!) might get a kick out of this one. This is also a book that reluctant readers and younger male readers will likely enjoy.
Romance: Romance-lite, Slowly-Developing.
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