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The Game of Love and Death

The Game of Love and Death

4.7 6
by Martha Brockenbrough

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Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don't know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here


Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don't know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly reimagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history? In the rainy Seattle of the 1920's, romance blooms among the jazz clubs, the mansions of the wealthy, and the shanty towns of the poor. But what is more powerful: love? Or death?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/16/2015
The odds against Henry and Flora becoming a couple are significant: Henry is white, Flora is black, and this is Depression-era Seattle. But their similarities outweigh their differences; at 17, they’re both orphans, musicians, and—unbeknownst to them—the current players in the centuries-old contest between Love and Death. Death’s player, Flora, is a singer and aspiring aviatrix; Henry, chosen by Love, plays bass and baseball. Airplanes and music bring Henry and Flora together, and though they feel something immediately, Flora, with a pessimism born of experience, is sure it can’t work. Love and Death are on the scene in human guises, manipulating people and events, and the book is really a tale of two couples: Henry and Flora, as well as the ultimate opposites-attract pair, Love and Death. Brockenbrough (Devine Intervention) never sugarcoats the obstacles facing Henry and Flora’s love—whether human prejudices or supernatural manipulations—in this inventive and affecting novel, and the ending in which Flora, who has seen too many people die, realizes how love and death intertwine, is beautiful. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

Praise for The Game of Love and Death:

Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and The Bulletin
Winner of the Washington State Book Award
Kirkus Prize Finalist
A YALSA Teens Top Ten Title
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Editors' Choice

"The idea is fascinating. The execution here is flawless. And the outcome of Flora and Henry's game of love and death is elegantly magical." -- Kwame Alexander, author of Newbery Medal winner The Crossover

"This exquisite, elegantly original fable of young love smashing convention to smithereens is so beautiful I wish I'd written it myself." -- Elizabeth Wein, author of Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity

"Smart, haunting, and entrancingly magical, Martha Brockenbrough's The Game of Love and Death is anything but a simple game. In this sweeping and fabulous tale, Brockenbrough creates a vivid world wherein Love and Death come to life with an intent and force of character that is truly unforgettable." -- Ruth Ozeki, bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being

The Game of Love and Death is a unique love story, and yet, it is also the love story of all humans through time. Martha Brockenbrough is a compassionate observer of many worlds -- airfields, jazz clubs, baseball diamonds, newspapers, and Hoovervilles to name a few -- and the beautiful, doomed human types that dwell in them. This is an exceptional novel." -- Gabrielle Zevin, author of Elsewhere

"Strikingly original, richly atmospheric, and impossible to put down, I read this book with my heart in my throat, desperately rooting for Henry and Flora's fated true love over those master manipulators, Love and Death." -- Judy Blundell, author of National Book Award winner What I Saw and How I Lied

"Marvelously original, engrossing, and deeply humane. It's the kind of book you never forget." -- Nancy Werlin, New York Times bestselling author of Impossible

"The Game of Love and Death weaves a complex tapestry of love and longing, destiny and hope. Daringly conceived and brilliantly executed, it is not only an intimately human story, but one that encompasses the very nature of love and death. Rich, wise, and deeply satisfying -- the story will linger in your heart long after you've turned the final page." -- Robin LaFevers, New York Times bestselling author of Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph

"The Game of Love and Death is an exquisitely nuanced novel that plunges readers into an inescapable ache of forbidden longing. Before you enter this game, be forewarned. Martha Brockenbrough has brilliantly crafted a contest that punctures our perceptions, and forces us to question the rules of evil and benevolence. A beautifully rendered achievement." -- Andrea Davis Pinkney, New York Times bestselling author of The Red Pencil

"The Game of Love and Death is a sweeping tour de force of imagination and heart. Entire passages begged to be reread both for the startling insights about life and for the sheer pleasure of basking in masterful language. A bold statement about the games we play and all the life -- and love -- that's possible when we stop. Shelve this one next to The Book Thief." -- Justina Chen, author of North of Beautiful, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Young Adults

"I couldn't refrain from gushing about The Game of Love and Death. It's rare when a book comes along that seems to transcend categorization but I have to say this is one of those novels. Everything from the richness of historical details to the racial tension to the psychology of the players themselves was expertly choreographed. I stand in awe, and I am not a fan of hyperbole." -- Gennifer Albin, author of The Crewel World trilogy

"Martha Brockenbrough has a musician's ear and a lover's heart. This terrific and beguiling novel is one of my favorites of the year, and while I'm reading it for a second time, I'm absolutely certain you should join me." -- Sean Beaudoin, author of The Infects and Wise Young Fool

Praise for Devine Intervention:

"Brockenbrough is a gifted writer who finds amusement in focusing on life's minutiae and who captures the slow-mo drama with which teens experience them... It is a pleasure to read a writer who so delights in language, and who writes so captivatingly in a teen voice with such imaginative description." -- Los Angeles Times

• "Brockenbrough devises a devilishly clever narrative, alternating Jerome's first-person account with Heidi's tightly focused third-person perspective... As the clock ticks down on Heidi's soul, readers will be rooting for both Jerome and Heidi with all their hearts." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Jerome's bumbling logic and wickedly funny observations are what make Brockenbrough's first book for teens so much fun. Underneath the occasionally risque humor and unexpected plot twists (including the possession of multiple animals' bodies) is an insightful story about seizing life for all it's worth while you have the chance." -- Publishers Weekly

"Brockenbrough's droll style delivers some laugh-out-loud moments. Reluctant readers will find the Heidi-Jerome dynamic entertaining and heartrending." -- School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Remy Dou
Every year Love and Death make a wager. They each pick a child to champion their cause. The rules are simple: if the child grows up and falls in love, Death loses. Unfortunately, that has never happened. Death wins every time; and when she wins, one of the players must die. This macabre plot sets the scene for Henry, a white boy who grows up in an affluent home, and Flora, an African-American girl trying to make it in Seattle’s 1937 jazz scene. The premise is a bit quaint in its approach to race in America and comes a little too late, focusing on obstacles much simpler than those faced by today’s youth—and that should say something. The anthropomorphic depiction of Love and Death helps to spice up the storyline, especially in their relationship with one another; but Flora and Henry play highly predictable roles. Still, it’s hard to escape their romance, especially for those that relish a good love story. Had Brockenbrough given more attention to secondary characters, like Ethan who struggles with his own sexuality, she may have written a truly epic, historical fiction novel. Despite her tantalizing writing, this tale falls short of exciting, with the last hundred pages feeling like they should have been twenty. Reviewer: Remy Dou; Ages 13 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Set in 1930s Seattle, this work tells the story of two teenagers whose destinies are being manipulated by powers far beyond their control. An orphan from a poor African American family who works as an airplane mechanic by day and a jazz singer at night, Flora dreams of being the next Amelia Earhart. Henry lives just a few blocks away, but he is white, and his adoptive family is wealthy. A bright future of college and a career lies ahead of him, but he is distracted by his love of music and, from the moment he first lays eyes on her, by Flora. What Flora and Henry don't know is that they have been chosen as pawns in a game between the immortal entities Love and Death. If they choose each other, then Love wins and they both survive, but if they don't, then Death wins and Flora's life is forfeit. Love and Death take on various guises and wreak havoc on the lives of their players at a deadly cost to both of their families. Though the writing is often beautiful and evocative, the story is sometimes weighed down by its many side characters and plot twists, and attempts to use Love and Death to explore larger philosophical ideas lack punch. Still, romance lovers will find themselves rooting for the ill-fated couple, and the historical setting and African American characters—particularly strong-willed Flora—bring some much needed diversity to the YA scene. VERDICT An interracial YA romance with weighty themes.—Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-02-03
A lovingly realized Depression-era Seattle becomes the field of play for the latest round in the titular, age-old game.In February 1920, Love and Death choose their newest pawns as infants: Love's is Henry, a white boy of privilege (though influenza and grief rob him of much of it); Death's is Flora, the soon-to-be-orphaned daughter of African-American jazz musicians. In spring of 1937, the game begins. Flora sings in—and actually owns part of—the family's nightclub, but her heart is in the skies, where she flies a borrowed biplane and dreams of owning her own. Henry, a talented bass player, is poised to graduate from the tony private school he attends on scholarship with his best friend, Ethan, whose family took him in upon his father's suicide. They meet when Henry and Ethan visit the airstrip where Flora works; the boys are in pursuit of a story for Ethan's newspaper-magnate father. Brockenbrough's precise, luscious prose cuts back and forth among the four protagonists, according each character equal depth, with Ethan playing a heartbreaking supporting role. The contrast between the youthful excitement of ardent Henry and pragmatic Flora and the ageless, apparent ennui of the immortals gains nuance as readers come to understand that Love and Death are not without their own complicated feelings. Race, class, fate and choice—they join Love and Death to play their parts in Brockenbrough's haunting and masterfully orchestrated narrative. (Magical realism. 12 & up)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Martha Brockenbrough has worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school teacher, and as editor of MSN.com, and is the author of Devine Intervention and The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy. She is a devoted grammarian, and founded National Grammar Day and the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG). Martha is also the social media diva for readergirlz, the nonprofit literacy organization that received the Innovations in Reading Award from the National Book Foundation. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and their two daughters.

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The Game of Love and Death 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
YoungMensanBookParade More than 1 year ago
At first glance, The Game of Love and Death might just seem like another love story- boy meets girl, they fall in love, something about their situation keeps them apart- and this story is anything but just another love story. The book begins on a February13th, a Friday in the 1920s. The entities Love and Death each choose a player for their game, which they have played many times before. Love picks Henry, and Death picks Flora, each hoping that they will win in the end. Seventeen years later, when the game begins, Henry and Flora must overcome many obstacles to determine whether Love or Death will win in the end, and both are unaware that they are pawns in a game. Flora and Henry have faced many similar situations in their past, but when they meet, their circumstances are very different. They must give up their old idea of their future, in addition to overcoming fear, racism, and loss, all to find love. I really enjoyed this book, and once I started, I couldn’t put it down. It puts an interesting twist on the typical love story; which I thought was very unique and fresh. The book also offered an interesting perspective of death, life, and love. The main characters were also very likable and relatable, and the book always kept things interesting. I loved this book, and I would definitely recommend reading it. Reviewed by Emily T., age 15, Broward Mensa
anythingnovel More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the concept of this story and Brockenbrough does a great job of giving both Love and Death very human characteristics. Throughout this competition it is very clear that while this game is meant to be a diversion from their eternal duties, both Love and Death, are not happy with their current situations. Despite being immortal, they each have their moments when they ache for the lives and relationships the players around them possess. Being pawns of such opposing ideas, it was interesting reading about the opposite reactions that Henry and Flora had to tragedy. While the death of Henry’s parents, seemed to make him ache for a relationship where he could once again feel that close of a connection with someone, Flora turned into herself and tried to form bonds with as few people as possible. One of these tactics serves to protect the soul from further damage, but only one could lead to the opportunity for renewed happiness. Although a secondary character, one of my favorite parts of this novel, was getting to know Henry’s cousin Ethan, and his own struggles that he was trying to work through. The Game of Love and Death is beautifully written, and tells a heart warming story that is really original and creative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What I loved most about this book were the characters Love and Death. Watching them manipulate the game was thrilling. There were a few times I thought for sure I knew the ending, but I was surprised! Things seem so cut-and-dry because of the historical setting, but the author did a beautiful job of making this game come alive.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
"Everybody dies. Everybody. That is the only ending for every true story." Over lifetimes Love and Death have carefully chosen their players, rolled the dice, and waited for any opportunity that might present itself for them to influence the Game in their favor. You probably already know some of the players: Antony and Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Paris, even Romeo and Juliet. Death has always won. Always. But Love has a faith that Death can't imagine--particularly when it comes to his latest player Henry Bishop. A white boy adopted by a wealthy family, Henry's life is easy even in the midst of the Depression that still grips the United States in 1937. His bright future is assured thanks to his adoptive family. All he has to do is claim it. Even without the stakes of the Game and her role as Death's player, Flora Saudade is an unlikely match for Henry. An African-American girl born just a few blocks from Henry, Flora supports herself as singer in Seattle's nightclubs while she dreams of following in the footsteps of pilots like Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman. With the players chosen and the dice rolled, Love and Death are prepared to watch this latest Game unfold. The odds, and the Game itself, are stacked against Henry and Flora. But with true love and free will at play maybe, just this once, anything is possible in The Game of Love and Death (2015) by Martha Brockenbrough. The Game of Love and Death works on many levels, both as a work of fantasy and one of historical fiction, to create a story that is as nuanced and introspective as its vibrant cast of diverse characters. While the main focus remains on Flora and Henry's fledgling relationship, Brockenbrough sets this story against a backdrop peppered with real historical events and an evocative atmosphere. This novel touches upon the question of choice and taking risks as much as the matters of love and mortality readers might expect from the title. The less likely aspect of this story is the compelling relationship between Love and Death. These two are, perhaps, the most unexpected characters in the novel. Love with his constant optimism and devil-may-care attitude is also surprisingly ruthless as his desperation to win the Game grows. Death, meanwhile, is much more than a villain as she struggles with the burden of her role in this story. These very different stories--of Flora and Henry but also of Love and Death themselves--weave together in unexpected ways as The Game of Love and Death build to its remarkable conclusion. The Game of Love and Death is a heady blend of fantasy and historical fiction that plays out on a grand scale. Sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Not to be missed.
Kimmiepoppins More than 1 year ago
It will not surprise me one single bit if this gorgeous, deep and moving book ends up an award winner. I am so in love with it. It has moved me and changed me and I'm not sure I have the right words to give to you about why you should read it. But I will tell you, as a writer, it is one of those books that has the potential to haunt you. After you wipe your tears and right your heart, you will find yourself questioning your own ability to string two words together. You will ask if you are capable of writing something so powerful. But if you understood what Brockenbrough was giving to her readers, you'll quickly come to understand that that kind of fear and doubt is death talking. What the game really gives to you is the understanding that if you choose love--love for yourself, your work and your life you will always find what you need. This book is perfect for those who loved THE BOOK THEIF.
mfu11 More than 1 year ago
In a dark and beautiful tale of love, loss, hope, and fate, Love and Death pick their players and the game begins. We’re familiar with Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, both couples players in the game of Love and Death. Now they’ve chosen new players: Flora for Death and Henry for Love. The pair are drawn to each other and the author spins a striking love story for the two, but there’s so much that stands against them, and will their feelings alone be enough in the end? Set in the 1930s this book immediately drew me in. I’m a fan of the time period, enjoying shows like Boardwalk Empire and novels by historical YA writers such as Cat Winters, where a supernatural element creeps into the story. As soon as I heard about this book, about the Seattle setting, the dangerous game, the music and romance, I knew I had to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, the twists, and the writing style. The rules are set, the stakes are high, their lives are in the hands of Love and Death, and who wins all rests on the actions of the players. The pages burst with courage and chance.