Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: The Julian Game by Adele Griffin

The Julian Game by Adele Griffin
Release Date: August 26, 2010
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 200
Received: Library
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 
Goodreads Page


All new-girl Raye Archer wants is a way into the in crowd, so when ice-queen Ella Parker picks her to get back at her ex, the gorgeous Julian Kilgarry, Raye is more than game. Even if it means creating a fake Facebook identity so she can learn enough about Julian to sabotage him. It's a fun and dangerous thrill at first, but Raye hadn't counted on falling for Julian herself and igniting Ella's rage. 

As Raye works to reconcile the temptress Elizabeth with her real-life self, Ella serves up her own revenge, creating an online smear campaign of nasty rumors and trashy photographs. Suddenly notorious, Raye has to find a way out of the web of deceit that she's helped to build, and back to the relationships that matter. 

Adele Griffin's riveting novel explores the issues of generation Facebook: the desire to be someone else, real versus online friends, and the pitfalls and fallouts of posting your personal life online for all the world to judge.


It’s a good thing I’ve started exercising again, because with all of this author cheerleading I’m doing, I need to get in shape. I am totally fangirling here. Ever read a book by an author and think, “Where have you been all my life?!” It started with an innocent Goodreads giveaway (Tighter review) and, well, I may have a few more Adele Griffin books making their way through inter-library loan as I write this review. 

Small appreciation

Usually I’m a “more is more” kind of person, and don’t get me wrong, I love my series, but you know what really knocks my socks off? A tiny book that packs a punch. When an author can take a measly 200 or fewer pages and create a book with characters who live and breathe, a story that hits me in the gut or grabs a hold of my heart and then leaves me thinking about the book long after I’ve turned the last page, well, that right there is just perfection. 

Add in the fact that I just really like the way Adele  writes and I’m floored. I think this is a much more difficult feat to accomplish in a short book than it is with the flexibility of a longer book or series. I’m always left in awe, and that’s where I am right now: Awed. And maybe more than a little uncomfortable (in the best possible way). 

The Julian Game is a mere 200 pages on the dot. I figured I would fly through it in an hour or two, but that is so not what happened. It took me two whole days to get through this slim book, but that’s not to say I wasn’t enjoying myself. Oh no, it took me so long because I kept putting the book down to think about what I had just read. Think! And not just about one issue either. There is so much to think about here: cyber bullying, online anonymity, teenage relationships, mean girls, insecurities, friendship, control, and so much more. I could write an essay.  This is not a light-hearted or funny mean girls book.

Painfully real

I always say it and I’ll say it again: I am a character girl. The thing here is, the characters? They’re kind of horrible people. Not always, and not all of them (Natalya is by far the most awesome best friend in the world), but at some point through the course of the book each of the main characters acts in a less than admirable way. But you know what? I may be outing myself here, but I loved these characters because I could relate to each and every one of them. They were so real. The relationship between Raye and her crush? Totally, painfully real. Ella’s maniacal need for power and control? Real, relatable. Raye’s insecurities? Oh boy, I’ve totally been there.

I’ve read a lot of mean girl books, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them, I often feel like there’s something missing in them. The mean girl is just a little unbelievable. She’s a caricature. The storyline is just a little too predictable. The guy just a little too “You’re an unrealistic fictional hottie.” The cruelty, as mean as it may be, often lacks that spark, that little something that makes a deeply buried tiny vulnerable nugget inside of me sob in painful sympathy.

All of those “somethings” are most definitely not missing here. Ella is a mean girl. She’s horrible, and yet…a part of me loves her. She’s so fragile, and in many ways she (embarrassingly) reminded me of myself at that age. There’s a scene where she is instructing Raye to take control of her life. This scene comes right on the heels of another scene where Ella’s complete lack of control is exposed like a raw, weeping wound. The juxtaposition of these two scenes just made my heart break for her. But you know what? She’s still a mean girl and I liked that. I like that the characters don’t all hug and become friends because that would be a cop out. I wouldn’t buy that and this book is too real for that kind of resolution.

Raye wasn’t a paragon of virtue herself, but I really liked her anyway. This is probably in large part because I saw much of my teenage self in her. Her narration is searing and honest. She grows so much through the book, but it’s not an obvious growth. There isn’t any one scene where she has an epiphany and vows to change her ways. Her growth is subtle, slowly and unobtrusively building as Raye gains experiences and, ultimately, wisdom. She is a very different person by the end of the book, with all of her changes honest and believable.

Lecture-free zone

I could go on and on, but I just wanted to touch on one more thing I really appreciated about this book: It wasn’t preachy. Cyber bullying is topic that is primed for preaching. It practically comes with its own ready-to-use soapbox and bullhorn. And yet Adele took the pontificating paraphernalia and chucked them out the window.  Thank you! The message is clear, it’s there, but it’s not in your face. And you know what else? It isn’t some unrealistic or knee-jerk call to action. The message is harsh but it’s also honest and true.

The same goes for Ella’s OCD (which is wonderfully never mentioned by name and never made into a “teaching issue”).  There were so many things here that could have been made into an awkward after-school special that just feels so false, but Adele masterfully skipped around these traps.

Sometimes I shouldn't judge a book by its cover

I had seen a number of mixed reviews for this book and I was pretty nervous about it. What if I didn’t like it? After reading and loving Tighter I didn’t want to be let down. The cover made me even more nervous. I don’t really like it (though I understand and appreciate it a lot more now: my cover review). I had a very different idea of what the book was going to be like based on that cover. The girl looked too quirky and I was worried this would be a book that reached desperately for quirky-cool humor and instead came off as trite. I also didn’t like the blue hair, but that’s probably because I’m old. Talk about misjudgment! My assumptions couldn’t possibly have been further from the truth.  

I am so glad I read Tighter because I don’t think I would have given The Julian Game a second glance otherwise. Boy would I have missed out! Because guess where this book is going? That’s right, the Special Shelf.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

The Julian Game satisfies the following challenges:


  1. I actually really like the cover of this book, but I think that may be because I like blue...

    It's probably better than Raye wasn't a paragon since characters that have some flaws are more interesting.

    I might just have to read this >.> my TBR pile quakes...

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books

  2. What a great review. I've not heard of this book ibam familiar Tighter. I wouldn't have even given this book a second look because I am totally turned off by the cover. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. The subject matter is very enticing. I hate the sad truth I'm such a cover snob. Thank goodness for great reviews like yours!

  3. I almost picked this up last year, than never did. Since you're so gaga over it, maybe I'll have to the next time I see it!

  4. Yeah, I don't really like the cover but if the book explains it, then I appreciate that more. That was the main reason I'd avoided this book despite seeing it at my library; thanks to your review, I will definitely be reading this at some point!

  5. Brilliant review. I am not a fan of the whole mean girl theme books but this one I want to read after all your cheerleading! I like real and honest characters :)

  6. Great review, Smalls. Now I'M totally interested in reading this book.

  7. I'm not really interested in the book itself but i totally love the colors used at the cover! It's impossible to not notice it.

  8. Awesome review! I got this book too and now I really cant wait to read it. I'm so glad you really loved it!!!

  9.'s rare that 200 pages can be so good. I like when I have to take a book slowly b/c there's so much going on. It makes it ultimately more enjoyable.

  10. Sniffly Kitty, I agree with you about characters with flaws. I also find them a lot easier to relate to when they aren’t perfect. Your TBR might be quaking but at least this book is short!

    Gina, Thank you! I’m the same way. I actually wrote this book off because of the cover and wouldn’t have given it a second glance if it weren’t for Tighter.

    A Backwards Story, I hope you enjoy it! I was surprised at how much it affected me.

    Bookworm1858, Yes, the cover makes a lot more sense after reading the book. I also had a very wrong impression about what the cover elements would mean. I hope you enjoy the book!

    Nic, Thank you! I think this book, while a mean girls book, is different from the other books in the genre. Most have a slightly funny edge to them? The over the top mean girl, her gaggle of stupid followers, etc. This one is very different and much more serious. It has a weight the others lack.

    Asher, Thank you! I hope you enjoy it :)

    Yiota, I do like the colors used, even though I didn’t like the cover itself. They are very eye-catching.

    Nina, Thank you! I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be looking forward to reading your review either way. :)

    Alison, It is rare, especially considering how much depth there was to the characters. I’m always amazed at how much this author can pack into a few pages.

  11. Never read an Adele Griffin book but I have to say your fangirling is rubbing off on me! I'll have to read her books sometime. I really love the way you describe the main characters especially. I don't like to read about particularly mean characters but at the same time, if they're too nice and Mary Sue-ish then it just doesn't seem real. Amazing review, as usual!

  12. Great review! I'd seen this one around, but I hadn't paid it much attention. The cover doesn't appeal to me (I know, I am so shallow with the covers!). I do enjoy the mean girl tings when it's done right, so maybe this is one I should check out!

  13. I've been meaning to get this book since I saw if on goodreads but I hadn't seen much on it so it slipped my mind. Thanks for reminding me and for the awesome review :)

  14. I didn't like this one as much since I thought the characters were a little stereotypical but I did like that the topic of cyber bullying was dealt with realistically.

  15. Great review- I enjoyed this as well. Such a unique and intriguing premise! I love Adele's books :)

  16. Very cool! I saw this cover and wondered what would merit a 5 star review! But I see now that I'm guilty of judging a book by its cover and should give it a chance. How many books have I let pass my by because the cover was weird?! Aaah!

  17. I never really knew what this book was about when it came out. The cover was way out there, but that didn't bother me. I just didn't understand what happened past the getting even with the boyfriend stage. Thank to your review, I know a lot more about it. Enough to make me want to read it. You're never gonna let me catch up on my TBR!


  18. It really does sound amazing!!
    I kind of had dismissed this book because of the cover and the fact that it seemed so short. But you have me reconsidering!!
    I'm going to add it to my list!!

  19. But I'm old(ish) and I like the cover. Though I do think you are right, it gives off the wrong kind of vibe, and I would have never expected more than quirky humor, so I'm glad for your review. And now you've got me curious about Tighter, too.

    I'm very familiar with the whole, Where have you been all my life feeling. I love getting swept away in that crashing wave.

    I really enjoyed how you broke up your review into little sections. You did a great job of covering all the bases. Thanks.

  20. And that cover! So wicked cool. I also love books that don't mince words and pack a lot of punch. This sounds like a super cool book, but also an important one that touches on cyberbullying, especially as it gets more prevalent. My favorite thing is when a book can really say something about an issue without becoming an "issue book."

  21. DUDE! Penguin Teen just linked to your review on their Facebook wall!

  22. , Good! Her books are often outside my comfort zone but she’s managed to make me love them anyway.

    Leanna, Thank you! I’m so shallow with covers too. I completely dismissed this book based on its cover. This is definitely a different sort of mean girls book. It’s much more serious and real.

    Jessica, You’re so welcome :)

    A Canadian Girl, Interesting take on the characters! I’ve heard that complaint in a few reviews, but I actually thought they were pretty unique. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a main love interest like Julian. It’s always so interesting to see how subjective reading experiences can be! I agree with you about her handling of cyber bullying.

    Kelsey, Thank you! I’ve been plowing through her books lately (three down, on a fourth now) and she continues to amaze me.

    Lazy Girl, Haha, I let this book go by for a long time because of the cover. I’ve probably missed out on a lot of good books that way. I know the opposite has definitely happened where I’ve read a book because I loved the cover and then….eh not so good!

    Heather, Nope, your TBR doesn’t stand a chance with me around :) It is interesting to look at the cover after having read the book and seeing how all of the elements are represented.

    Alex, Where Adele is concerned I’ve learned that page counts don’t matter. She can capture in a single sentence what would take other authors (or someone like me!) an entire paragraph or more. There might not be many pages, but she packs so much into them that her books never feel lacking or sparse. I hope you enjoy it!

    Missie, Exactly, totally a feel of quirky humor….which isn’t even present in the book! I love the crashing wave of where have you been all my life. Best book feeling ever (right next to book boyfriend crushing). I’m glad you enjoyed my review :)

    Logan, You are so right about “issue” books. This book says so much about so many different topics, but it’s not an “issue” book at all. It touches on so many important things, and with so few pages I’m just amazed. Yay I’m on Facebook!!!! *happy dance* Thank you for the link! I never would have seen it otherwise because I don’t have a Facebook account.

  23. Oops, that first response was to Aylee!


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