Small Game

Ecco: HarperCollins. Nov. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780063066175. $27.99. F
DEBUT Dogsledder and nonfiction writer Braverman’s (Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube) first novel skillfully blends psychological suspense with some nuanced modern-day themes, including the concept of life as a never-ending performance. With a secure job teaching outdoor survival skills and a steady long-term relationship, twentysomething Mara has created a comfortable adult life for herself after an unconventional childhood living off the grid with her activist parents. When she is asked to join the cast of a survival reality TV show, Mara sees it as a chance to win the $100,000 prize money, then earn her GED, leave her boyfriend, and start over somewhere new. On the show, her strategy is simple: remain as invisible as possible while observing the other contestants and the group’s dynamics and using them to her advantage. But when the show’s film crew disappears, the group’s cohesion fractures, and food and supplies dwindle. Braverman draws on her extensive outdoors experience to bring alive the gritty details of the survival camp, and her characters are simultaneously engaging and terrifying as they battle nature and each other to stay alive.
VERDICT This slim novel will appeal to fans of adventure and psychological fiction and would make a refreshing change for reading groups.
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