This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Published: January, 2012
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Peters is absolutely over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, selects her from hundreds of other applicants as the winner of his writing contest. Not only is she invited to take his class at the local university; she also gets one-on-one sessions with him to polish her story and prepare it for publication. But the writing sessions escalate into emails, and texts, and IMs, and gifts, and social events. What was once a delightful opportunity has become a dreadful burden. What kind of game is Father Mark playing? And how on earth can she get out of it?
Olivia wins a writing competition and the chance of a lifetime to not only meet her literary idol, but to have him as a mentor as she prepares her story for publication. His faith in her talent is encouraging and his attention is flattering, until it isn't anymore. There appears to be no escaping him when he calls and texts and emails and IMs and shows up around every corner.
This Gorgeous Game is a unique and personal look at an issue not commonly explored in YA, in which Freitas realistically develops and captures the natural feelings of isolation and anxiety associated with stalking.
Olivia is written with such an endearing normal voice. In fact, all of the characters and their dynamics and their situations were so, so normal. Olivia has an older, engaged sister; nice, supportive friends; a caring mother; a burgeoning romantic relationship. All of this carefully contrasts with her life post-normal, post-competition, and it becomes clear how in the foreign post-competition that she could miss where the line should have been drawn.
For all of the normality, though, it isn't plain or boring. The psychological premise isn't the whole plot, with the focus often on forming the kind of strong friendships that save. But for these character-building respites from the more disturbing themes, it actually serves to make them all the more frightening. The way obsessiveness like Father Mark's can worm its way slowly into lives mostly unnoticed -- into any normal life, from the most unexpected of places.
This Gorgeous Game is a story frightening in its portrayal of how easy it is to miss warnings of the most sinister things, but simultaneously uplifting in the promise of a friend's help. Well-written and engaging, it's not to be missed by fans of grittier contemporaries and not to be dismissed by people squeamish about subject matter like this.