Small Game

HarperAudio Nov. 2022. 7:05 hrs. ISBN 9780063066236. $21.99. F
Dogsledder and memoirist Braverman’s (Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube) fiction debut asks how humans interact when everything they are accustomed to having is taken away. Most people have watched reality shows—some about survival—and wondered how much was scripted or what they might do in the same situation. Braverman presents one possibility as she explores Civilization, a survival reality show set in the forests of the deep north that goes terribly wrong. Five very different strangers—wilderness instructor Mara, Eagle Scout Kyle, seemingly sweet Ashley, old-school Bullfrog, and James, the biggest cipher of them all—each with varied backgrounds, are promised a huge sum of money and armed with nothing more than their wits. When the filming crew disappears, however, the “survivors” are left to their own devices. Mara takes center stage as the characters navigate changing relationships and the real challenges of the outdoors. Kristen Sieh’s narration is reminiscent of an old friend, warm and interesting, with excellent and varied characterizations.
VERDICT Braverman’s captivating debut novel takes several unusual turns and twists, but the themes of individuality, courage, community, trust, and love are most in focus.
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