Amy Reviews: L.J. Smith—The Forbidden Game Vol. 1: "The Hunter"
This trilogy was first published in 1994, as part of the hugely successful Point Horror series of young adult horror fiction. I read it just after it came out – I was ten or eleven years old at the time. Perhaps for that reason, this is one of my favourite YA books.
Whether or not nostalgia gives me rose-tinted glasses, I have no idea. What I do know is that this first book still manages to be far more original and exciting than most of the recent releases I’ve read, and it’s now seventeen years old!
Jenny Thornton stumbles across a games store on the seedy side of town, while looking for something to keep guests occupied at her boyfriend’s birthday party. She buys a mysterious game in a plain white box from an enigmatic stranger, feeling drawn to it in a way she can’t explain.
When she and her friends gather to play the game, it turns out to be a paper house. Once it’s constructed, each player colours in a paper doll to represent his- or herself, and draws their worst nightmare on a piece of paper, placing them in different rooms of the house. When they begin to play the game, however, they’re sucked into a nightmarish house that’s definitely not made of paper…
Jenny and her friends must face their worst nightmares in order to get to the exit at the top of the house. Its occupant, the boy from the games store who sold Jenny the game, is actually a Shadow Man, and he wants Jenny. If they don’t reach the top of the house by dawn, they’ll all have to stay with Julian forever. And if you die in the game, you die for real.
While Jenny is your classic innocent heroine, with a boyfriend she plans to marry one day and a complete lack of understanding of the effect she has on men, her friends are a lot more vivid and interesting.
Audrey has moved all around the world with her diplomat father, and she has grown up in many cultures and learned many languages. As a result, she appears cosmopolitan and sophisticated, fashion-conscious and sexy. As her fear consumes her, we see behind the mask.
Dee is an African-American athlete, skilled in kung fu and a lover of horror movies. She’s Jenny’s closest and oldest friend, and often serves as a grounding force for her.
Michael is laid back, scruffy and the most prone to fear of the guys, and somehow he and Audrey are a couple. The unconventional relationship seems superficial at face value, but as time goes on we see that it’s deeper than it seems.
Summer is the girl everyone wants to care for – petite, blonde and fragile. Jenny is protective of her, and Summer depends on her for her support, inside the Game and out.
Zachary is Jenny’s cousin, a distant type with a strong artistic streak. Jenny often muses that he cares more for his photography than he does for people.
Tom is Jenny’s boyfriend – the tall, dark and handsome jock. Jenny adores him, but as she progresses through the Game, Julian the Shadow Man is a constant barrier between she and Tom.
As for Julian, the white-haired, blue-eyed Shadow Man… well, that would be telling! You’ll have to read to find out exactly how he and Jenny clash… and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be rooting for Jenny to go back to boring Tom by the end of the book!
L.J. Smith The Forbidden Game Trilogy Vol. 1 “The Hunter”
Paperback, 240 pages
March1 , 1994 by Simon Pulse