Locked Away

When I randomly ran across The Game at my local library, by Canadian author Teresa Toten, my interest was piqued. It had been nominated for an ALA Best Book award as well as a Canadian Governor General’s award, and I wanted to see what was on offer from our neighbor to the north.

On the surface, this book bears a lot of resemblance to another novel about a young woman in a difficult situation who is being treated at a residential facility — Cut, a very intense and sensitively written novel by Patricia McCormick. And I wanted to like The Game the way I liked Cut, a novel which surprised and moved me. McCormick’s novel has a lot of depth—depth of character, depth of emotional sensitivity, and depth of understanding. The potentially disturbing nature of the subject matter—a girl who cuts herself—is tempered by the sympathetic characters and the powerful moment of redemption and hope at the end.

The Game had a lot of superficial similarities—a girl living in a residential clinic, who is not yet quite ready to face her traumas head-on, who has a protective roommate and various run-ins with other residents of the facility, who must face her own past in order to grow and move past it. Dani, whose family suffers from a terrible secret, used to play a special Game of the imagination with her younger sister to get away from the unpleasant realities of their daily life. Only by cracking the symbolism of the Game and facing her problems head-on can she truly heal.

However, the book seemed a little distant and detached, and the characters didn’t quite have the depth that would have made them seem real and fully formed in my mind. The side characters, and even the narrator, were hard to visualize—they just didn’t hold together consistently for me–and that really decreased the sense of internal, psychological drama that is such a big part of stories like this. I liked the premise, but it wasn’t executed as strongly as I think it could have been.

Interestingly enough, you can get both books together at a reduced price from Amazon. I guess I’m not the only one to see the similarities.

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About the author

Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor, graphic designer, proofreader, and localization QA tester, so she wears a teetering pile of hats. On any given day, she is very tired. She is the author of the middle grade graphic novel Alexis vs. Summer Vacation, and three YA novels, including the award-winning The Latte Rebellion.


  1. It actually freaks me out a little when they do that… I mean, someday (please, God) I’m going to find my book lined up next to a book I’ve mocked that is also close to a topic I’ve written on… and what else is there to do but cringe!?

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