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Book Review: Games by Robin Klein

games robin klein Book Review: Games by Robin Klein

When I was younger, I worked my way through most of my school librarys collection of Robin Klein books. Needless to say, when I saw this one on the shelves at my in-laws, one of a number of books that had clearly been required reading for my fiance when he was at school, I couldnt help but smuggle it home with me.

Though published back in the olden days, a year or so after I was born, the brilliance and relevance of'Games'endures, and I found myself marvelling at Kleins subtle skill as an author.'Id pit this one up against Robert Cormiers best work: its a chilling examination of the power dynamics between a group of schoolgirls and the escalating paranoia and resentment that arise based on their distrust of each other.

Patricia Miggs is not the kind of girl who typically moves in the circles of girls such as Genevieve and Kirsty, so when shes thrown a social life-line in the form of an off-handed comment by Kirsty she leaps at the chance, heading off to spend the weekend with the two girls at the dilapidated home of Kirstys eccentric Aunt Maude. But Kirstys fleeting generosity towards Patricia has already dwindled by the time the girls arrive at the house, and from the outset theres a painful drawing of lines between the popular girls and their unpopular hanger-on.

Initially, Patricia, determined to make the most of the opportunity to clamber up a rung or two of the social ladder, is awkwardly sycophantic, striving to prove her worth as a person by taking on a role thats somewhere between that of a mother and that of a servant. Its depressing to watch her do this, though: she cant stand either of the two girls, and disagrees with their outlooks and their actions, but yet wants to be like them. Even as Kirsty and Genevieve continue to treat each other, and Patricia as well, with callous indifference and occasionally out-right maliciousness, Patricia endeavours to ingratiate herself to them.

But things take an eerie turn when, following a seance, strange things begin to happen around the run-down building. Thumps, bangs, falling picture frames and all sorts of inexplicable phenomena occur, and the girls begin to turn on each other, each accusing the others of attempting to scare her and cast her out.

Klein does a superb job of ramping up the tension, and though the twist (well, one of the two) is fairly easily picked early on, I thoroughly enjoyed the way the book walks the line between the supernatural and simple malicious human activity. Rather than simply assuming a supernatural cause (as I suspect many characters would do in a similar novel today), a mix of logic and suspicion prevails, with all three of the girls attempting to catch the others out in their games. The smallest things become fodder for a row, with the girls gradually turning on each other in attacks of not just presumed behaviour, but also personality and character as well, and the reader cant help but wonder how far things will go before a truce is called.

One thing I thought of particular interest was the juxtaposition of Patricias agoraphobic mother and the girls being trapped inside the house, being too afraid to venture outside. Patricia resents her mothers condition, seeing her as leading a crippled life, yet when the trio is forced to deal with the strange goings-on within the house, they too find themselves retreating into the comfort of smaller and smaller spaces and looking to solutions that are close to home. And indeed its only when the thrall of the space is broken that anyone can begin to making sense of whats going on and begin to put a stop to it.

Theres so much laconic beauty to Kleins prose: brand names are avoided, television show titles skipped over, and hair colour is alluded to rather than mentioned, but in this spareness theres so much startling accuracy, and it really feels as though Klein gets'the audience that shes writing for and the constant jostling and repositioning of self thats required to survive in the teenaged world. Highly recommended.

Rating: star Book Review: Games by Robin Kleinstar Book Review: Games by Robin Kleinstar Book Review: Games by Robin Kleinstar Book Review: Games by Robin Kleinblankstar Book Review: Games by Robin Klein (excellent)

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