Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I chose to serve my time with broken people.“
Greer Cannon has pushed the envelope too far when she is caught shoplifting for the upteenth time. Her parents decide to send her to McCracken Hall, a private school for troubled teens. Greer does her best to obey the strict rules and participates in the therapeutic “help” sessions in order to gain access to privileges and make her stay less prison like. When she meets the gorgeous and charismatic Addison Bradley, Greer feels like her stay at McCracken will finally become bearable.
Addison Bradley has come to McCracken Hall of his own accord for a severe drinking and drug problem. Militant in both his physical and emotional upkeep, he absorbs Greer into his life and philosophies. When he introduces Greer to his mentor, Joshua, Greer feels a kinship with the older gentleman and begins to understand the reasons behind her destructive behaviors.
As Joshua instigates himself more into Greer’s life, she begins to question his motivations. What does he want from her and what is the hold he has over Addison and the rest of their group? As she uncovers more of Joshua’s lies, Greer gives voice to her suspicions, only to be placed firmly on the outside of Joshua’s circle. Can Greer convince her friends that Joshua is dangerous, or will she learn just how far Joshua will go to keep his secrets safe?
The Believing Game is a mild psychological/coming of age thriller. Told in a straightforward style, everything is presented firmly and with little fanfare. By fanfare, I mean there was no real anticipation or build up to each stepping stone on the story. Though, this particular style and tone works in the telling of this story. It presents like an uncomfortable memory. Snarky humor and teenage musings kept the book from becoming too matter of fact.
Told from the point of view of Greer Cannon, we learn she is sent to a privileged “reform” school for her problems (stealing, promiscuous sex, and eating disorder). We get a ringside seat to her thoughts and feelings about her problems, her family, the school, and how she attempts to deal with it all. Greer was an interesting character. Not given to overly emotional teen angst or grandstanding, we learn why she choose to do the things she did. She has a jaded outlook towards herself and her place in life. She has no remorse over what she has done in the past, she is a bad girl through and through. Yet she has a certain honesty about herself that is refreshing. Her first reaction when first seeing Addison is telling.
“I noticed him. And then he noticed me back. It surprised me. He didn’t look like someone who would look at me. But he did. A lot…It wasn’t that my face was supremely magnetic or anything. They gave me back shampoo. They didn’t airbrush me.”
Greer understands the way to play the game at the school in order to leave but does not place a lot of hope in the actual cure. She feels the teachers and counselors are merely reciting from a script, playing the game right along with her. It’s only after she meets Addison and Joshua that she begins to honestly question her choices and the actions that lead her to McCracken Hall.
Addison was less developed for me then Greer. We don’t get much insight into his feelings or point of view-only what Greer sees and deduces. She senses from the beginning that something isn’t right about him or his situation but chooses to ignore her own misgivings in order to remain by his side. Once their relationship solidifies, in her eyes, we begin to see a change in Greer. She strives to become a better person in order to justify to herself that she deserves to be with Addison.
"Look at me Addison. I’m trying to be the best version of myself for you."
That’s not to say that the relationship between Greer and Addison is harmful, because it’s not. It’s actually healing for Greer, though she shows a dependency on Addison that is worrisome in the beginning. As we watch Greer grow within herself, additional characters are introduced who all seem to physically embody the dysfunctional emotions that are part of Greer’s life. We meet wrath, greed, lust, gluttony, pride, and envy. Each one sent to the school for reasons of their own making.
Joshua, our villain, is introduced in deceptively small doses in the beginning. His charismatic personality a seemingly breathe of fresh air among the repetitive rhetoric spouted by the school’s counselors. Joshua instigates himself into Greer’s small group of friends, spreading his ideology with damning praise and false prophecies. We are shown the evolution of a cult leader. Corrigan does a wonderful job of showing the effects of such a personality on these impressionable intelligent teenagers. The kids in here all feel abandoned by their families in some fashion or form, so it was easy for Joshua to slip into a pseudo role of father, mother, and confident. What is really interesting is that Greer isn’t the only one who sees the flaws beneath his exterior. Everyone involved feels the faint stirrings of discontent but like Greer, they all have something to lose should they choose to verbalize their feelings. It’s only when something happens to one of them that is just too big to ignore does Greer finally choose to risk her own happiness by making a stand.
The ending is heartbreaking, illuminating, and confusing as we watch the effects of Joshua’s fall from grace ripple through Greer’s friends and the school as a whole. Corrigan resolves the main conflict in one clean swoop then drops us and we are left looking around wondering, “Is that the end?” I was left with more than a few questions. There are also some events in here that were unbelievable and jerked me out of the story.
Regardless of my misgivings, I found the story engaging if not overly suspenseful and exciting. I recommend for those who enjoy a more contemporary non-pnr based YA with a realistic base and tone.