I read Sean Olin’s WICKED GAMES roughly 6 months ago, drawn in immediately by its cover and promise when I received an ARC for review. At that time, I didn’t know it would be a series (how and why, I do not know) but I did see that it sounded interesting enough. Diving into the book, it even started interesting enough, until the point where it became one of the worst offending books I have ever read when it comes to demonizing those that suffer from mental illness.
The story follows a teen couple that has been together forever, except the girlfriend is very, very attached to her boyfriend. When the boyfriend, Carter, strays at a party, abandoning his girlfriend and being a complete ass to her in order to meet and fall for the hippy dippy Jules, his scorned girlfriend Lilah (already showing signs of mental illness, and a needy wreck) plots revenge against Jules for stealing her boyfriend away from her, even though it was totally all Carter that really made the moves to begin with.
So what does a respectable teenage girlfriend do when her boyfriend of years breaks up with her for another girl that he claims to have fallen instalove with? Plot revenge and murder against his new girlfriend, who is totally a complete hussy (in Lilah’s mind) to convince Carter she is the one and only.
This review is going to be less a review and more a rant, because I cannot sit idly by and watch a book written for teens so inaccurately portray a teenage girl’s mental illness as little more than jealousy and hatred. Lilah is suffering from something that those around her admit has been treated by a doctor. She has been prescribed medication that nobody seems to enforce her taking. Her parents just shrug and pretend nothing is really wrong when she begins to inflict a stream of horrible, grievous crimes against Jules, including stealing Jules’ sexy nude videos for Carter made while she was underage and playing them at graduation.
Carter, who claims that he loved Lilah, doesn’t even try and get Lilah help. In fact, he does nothing to realize that she is having a crisis that needs help, even when her parents do nothing to stop her other than shipping her off to another college while he and Jules go off together into the sunset. In fact, everyone in this book seems to be naive beyond belief, from the teenagers to the parents to the school officials who also seem ignorant of the fact a child in their care has gone off the rails.
Mental health portrayed as a villainous trait, untreated and mostly ignored by loved ones, is just one of the tropes I wish would die, especially in YA. It’s harmful, misleading, and just completely ignorant of reality, and it is not sexy.
In short, no, I cannot and will not recommend this book. And I feel bad for this review because I am sure Mr. Olin had good intentions in writing this “sexy thriller” that is a “juicy summer read”, but the end result is something so offensive to those suffering from mental health issues that it’s just a big fat no.