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by Anna Snoekstra
MIRA, October 2018
320 pages
ISBN: 077836996X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Never stopping, Ava watched them all for years growing up. To be part of the clique with Cass, Saanvi, and ringleader Mel was all she dreamed of. Then she had it. But joining their circle would never truly be allowed, not by Mel; and Ava learns the hard way she wasn't meant to be one of them. Years of bullying has taken its toll, and now all Ava can think about is revenge.

Over the course of a decade, Ava plans her revenge to the most precise detail. First, she watches Saanvi, just out of college and heading for the top. But Ava is ready to make her fall. Then Cass is preparing for the happiest day of her life. Ava watches Cass plan, and stress, and flirt. Ava makes sure Cass's happiest day will be her worst.

Finally, she is ready for Mel. But Mel is still the same hypnotic and calculating leader she was in high school. She knows Ava is watching, and she is ready to play the game no matter the cost. Further complicating Ava's revenge scheme is the boy next door, Evan. Between her plots and maintaining a sense of normalcy, Ava struggles to find out what she really is.

Anna Snoekstra's novel, THE SPITE GAME is a suspenseful drama, filled with twists and truths you would never anticipate. Right from the start, you know Ava is ready to confess her involvement with the missing Mel. Told in time-skips and rewinds, it's Ava's journey to her confession that is the real thrill.

Snoekstra perfectly captures the drama of high school and it-girl hierarchy, and the struggles that come with letting it all go. There was a part of me that completely understood Ava, and exactly why she was carrying out her revenge. It would be a lie to say I never thought about the same kind of revenge on my bullies myself.

I also enjoyed the struggle of Ava trying to maintain her normal life while scheming. The struggles show a breakdown of her character and help put into perspective what she is fighting for in her present life. How she can't let go of her past is just as harrowing as how she deals with a budding romance and hiding her true psyche from her loved ones.

THE SPITE GAME is brilliant at keeping focus on the here and now, and only gently revealing backstory. Whenever you question present-Ava's motives, Snoekstra is quick to provide an answer through past-Ava's memory. I also enjoyed the flashbacks as they provided better understanding into the relationships among the characters.

It was an easy read that I could pick up at any time and not worry about where I left off. However, while I did enjoy Ava's journey for revenge, but I was mostly left feeling flat. Mel and Ava, while living drastically different lives, are more similar than they think, and I wish more had been explored in their development. Also, Mel was characterized perfectly in the past sections of the novel, but it was hard to separate her present self from the past.

Saanvi and Cass could also have used more development. Despite being part of Ava's revenge, they were relatively flat characters that I felt simply existed to extend the revenge theme. More often than not, I found myself focusing more on Ava's struggle with love rather than her motives and plans. At times, the novel is more like a slow-paced romance than a thrilling revenge story.

Still, I would recommend you read THE SPITE GAME at least once, especially those who have been bullied who wish to see karma play out. It's fun and thrilling, and like Ava, there's not much to lose.

Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, December 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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