Thursday, May 27, 2010

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

Olivia Peters is over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and muchadored local priest Mark D. Brendan, offers to become her personal writing mentor. But when Father Mark’s enthusiasm for Olivia’s prose develops into something more, Olivia’s emotions quickly shift from wonder to confusion to despair. Exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can she get out of it?

I thought this story was a very effective portrayal about how it feels to be stalked, to have your life taken away one inch at a time.

Olivia was raised Catholic, and she draws comfort from her religion. She believes in its system - her father left when she was young, and the priests of her parish stepped in as father-figure. She has been brought up to believe that the priest is the symbol of God as human, and those in his parish are happy to do as he tells them because God speaks through him. As a result, she trusts priests, respects them, and even loves them (at least on some level).

Because of this, I found her compliance with Father Mark completely understandable. On top of her regular feelings about priests, she's star-struck because he's her literary idol. Plus, she's content with her life and has no reason to question or rebel. It takes some time before she starts to question his behavior, which is also understandable because humans often choose not to see things that will corrupt the things we love. When she does begin to question, I think her reactions and feelings are spot on.

I also completely understand her need for help in the end. It's her way of drawing strength so she can deal with everything. In cases like these, it's nearly impossible to handle effectively on your own. It also takes a great deal of courage to go to friends and loved ones with a situation like hers, so I thought she came out of the story much stronger.

All that said, there was a large part of this story that just did not work for me, and that was Father Mark. I've been the victim of a manipulator, and Father Mark wasn't the creative and creepy bad guy that he was made out to be. Manipulators use guilt to get what they want (as well as other things), and he didn't. He could have been far, far more creative in trying to get what he wanted. Also, there was a large piece missing from the end, which was really necessary to the story. And very necessary for Olivia.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

We never find out how Olivia confronts Father Mark. Does she do it through her mother? Her school's principal? Publicly? And how does he react? Horrified? Guilty? Feigning innocence? Does he attempt to apologize, or does he try to manipulate his way out of the situation? Has he done this before (to other girls), or did his good intentions get way out of hand? These are all incredibly important details, because they directly affect Olivia and how she will begin to heal. Without them, I can't connect to Olivia because I don't know what she's feeling. I kind of feel cheated because I spent the entire story connected to Olivia, and then that was taken away.

Still, I enjoyed this book. It grabbed me and held me, right up until the end.


Sherrie Petersen said...

This book sounds too creepy for me. I can read creepy if it's total fantasy, but when it's so close to reality I just get paranoid. I know. Weird :)

Tabitha said...

Yeah, it's a bit creepy. Though it's not as creepy as it's meant to be, I think.

For some reason, the most recent books I've read all have a bit of a creepy, dark streak to them...

bookaholic said...

Wow! This sounds so creepy and REALISTIC! I would love to read it!!

Tabitha said...

Yeah, it's pretty realistic. Especially how the situation makes you feel. I had a hard time putting this one down. :)

Christina Farley said...

Interesting thoughts on this book. I'm not sure if I'd be up to reading it though but I liked the questions you raised at the end as the reader.

Mary Witzl said...

I'd definitely read this book, creepy though it may be. I really admire authors who can deal with tough subjects like this one and I feel there is a real need for their books.

Tabitha said...

Christina - this book definitely isn't for everyone. The subject matter is pretty tough, and unless you've been through it in some form, it might be too much.

Mary - I wholeheartedly agree. I would imagine a fair number of teenage girls are the victims of stalkers, and there aren't really many places they can go to deal with it. A book like this is a good start.