BOOK REVIEW: NERVE BY JEANNE RYAN

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13088498-nerve

For fans of The Hunger Games

A high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the gameknows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it's exhilarating--Vee and Ian's fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they're directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they're playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?






Alright, here's the deal: if a book is going to feature nothing but senseless characters, there needs to be:
- some sort of development
- an acknowledgment that they're behaving like idiots
- ... you know, sense.
The only alternative, really, is adopting a nihilist senselessness-is-all-there-is approach. But given how heavily this book relied on material possessions, fame, voyeurism, looks, boys, looks, boys, and looks... it's hard to say it was going for a nihilist approach.

What's left, then? A senseless book about a cast of senseless characters making senseless decisions throughout. Behold: Nerve.

It's exactly what it says on the cover: an online-based game of life and death that you choose to play for five minutes of fame, spa makeovers and really fancy shoes.

And not to be misunderstood - this is a magnificent concept. Partly because there's a part of your brain that desperately wishes something akin to Nerve was real (if you're a demented Gryffindor, at least), even knowing full-well that you wouldn't actually participate. And partly it's because Nerve augments virtual reality and brings it into our world the same way we've seen other games do recently (*cough*), so it's both prophetic and relevant, and also - if we're being honest - just so exciting.

What, then, seems to be the problem? Swap in other characters instead of the ones in this book and we've got ourselves a fully enjoyable experience. Because Nerve is told through the eyes of Vee. And however you try to spin it (believe me, I've spun so much I got dizzy), Vee is problematic.

She is problematic because she is talked into Nerve by a boy, perseveres because of another boy, and then sticks around for another boy - all the while making sure to point out that if it wasn't for [boy], she'd never have made it this far. (That, Vee, would have been what we call a good thing.)
She is problematic because resents her friends for her own lack of sound judgment.
She is problematic because she's one jeepers! away from a Scooby Doo level of eloquence, but then breezes through sexually explicit dare after sexually explicit dare.
She is problematic because she staged her own suicide but made sure she was found on time, just so she would get more attention than her best friend, for once?!?
And most of all - she is problematic because she thinks introversion is a character flaw that must be rectified at all costs. Which, incidentally, is the very premise of Nerve as a novel.

I've raged and raged against the trope that being shy is a defect of character and that not being the center of attention means you're doing something wrong. But in the interest of once-more-with-feeling: giving us a costume and make-up designer who is secretly a bitter failed actress, and then thrusting her into the spotlight to show the actual actors up is a fundamentally inaccurate, insensitive and ignorant way of, as John Green puts it, imagining others complexly.

Piling up living-tropes-in-character-form as all the side characters doesn't help, either.

And now that I've thoroughly picked the book apart, a one-eighty: despite the inane characters and despite the enormous suspension of disbelief that the plot requires, for me Nerve was a ridiculously entertaining experience. And for putting me in the position of easily the most irritating stratum in the book - the Watchers - and making me enjoy the experience and genuinely wonder what happens next - the book does, after all, earn a tentative pass.

(The movie, however, looks amazing. But I'm by no means a movie aficionado, so I have low standards and nothing to compare it to. Keep this in mind at all times and you will never get horribly lost on my account.)




And one last confession: I still sort of want to play NERVE. In bookish circles, we call this the Gryffindor curse. (Well, we don't. But I'm in bookish circles and I just called it that. So there.) Low on sense, high on HEY, THAT LOOKS DEADLY, LET'S DO IT! The Gryffindor curse, however, is powered by an intrinsic Gryffindorness rather than a desire for killer shoes and a spa makeover. Just so you know what level of vague you're judging me on right now.

Talk to me, pumpkins! Would you ever play a game like Nerve? What's the worst dare you've ever completed, or the most daring thing you've ever done? And mostly - have you read or seen Nerve, and what did you think of it? I can understand the mad love and the utter disappointment alike, so hey - you've got a friend in me regardless.

Share

DON'T MISS

BOOK REVIEW: NERVE BY JEANNE RYAN
4/ 5
Oleh

Subscribe via email

Like what you see? Add your email to subscribe.