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Book Review: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and DeathThe Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

ya, fantasy, magical realism

Henry and Flora. Chosen at birth to be players in an ill-fated game by Love and Death. Worlds apart in Depression-era Seattle, Flora is an African American jazz singer and pilot. Orphaned as a young girl, she yearns to be among the clouds but is tethered to earth by the need to care for her grandmother. Henry is also an orphan but in a much more stable situation as a white boy with a wealthy adopted family, a job, and a college scholarship. As characters, Love and Death tug on strings to find out who will win the game? With our players live and have love or lose and both perish?

I read this as part of a YA for Adults bookclub at my local library, though that category is questionable. I wonder if this might actually be more appropriate as “New Adult”, a genre that I haven’t gotten into yet.

I thought the writing was beautiful most of the time, but I slogged through this. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that December is such a busy time I didn’t have any good pockets of time for reading a lot. I kept coming back to it, but it was slow going. Everyone in our book club reported the same thing, too.

I had a hard time caring about Love and Death. If I am going to be reading about star-crossed lovers, just let me read about star-crossed lovers. I don’t need some meaningless “game” and puppet-masters. And yet, Love and Death are actually who this book is about, right? Flora and Henry remain fairly static as far as characters go… and we know star-crossed bit is familiar. Death certainly gets the most movement as a character.

All that said, young readers will get a lot out of this book. There is much to chew on between the racial, class, social justice, and historical aspects. And it certainly is a new take on the star-crossed lover tale. I would have loved this book as a tween after getting my fill on the film Romeo + Juliet.

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