This Game Is Getting All Too Real
Sam Tracy likes to stay under the radar and hang out with his friends from the Rez. But when he saves rich suburban princess Riley Berenger from falling off a mountain, she decides to try to save him. Riley promises to help Sam win the heart of the girl he can't get over, and suddenly Sam is mad popular and on everyone's hot list. Except now Riley's trying out some brand-new bad-girl moves and turning both of their lives upside down.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 11 Years|
About the Author
Liz likes to write stories about ordinary teens who do extraordinary things. Born in Park Ridge, Illinois, Liz moved to the American Southwest after college, never expecting to live more than one year among cactus and people who'd never seen snow. She was wrong. To learn more, please visit www.LizFichera.com.
Read an Excerpt
Being the good daughter wasn't easy.
First there was the guilt that gnawed at my self-esteem like a leech whenever I didn't live up to my parents' expectations. That guilt could be triggered by the smallest of things. Like when I snapped at Mom before school because I was late and she didn't appreciate my lipstick shade, and she looked back at me with wide eyes as if wondering whether I was her real daughter or an imposter from outer space. Or when I pulled a B on a chemistry test (my least favorite subject) instead of the A Mom and Dad wanted. For the rest of the day, my anxiety was on overdrive.
Second, because I've had to overcompensate for my loser older brother for, like, ever, old habits were hard to break. The worse he behaved, the better I behaved, because I was the Designated Good Daughter, remember? So when Ryan would come home reeking of cigarettes and beer, or sometimes not at all, and Dad would corner me about him in the family room, I'd make excuses for him. "He had to go upstairs" or "He's getting a cold" were my standbys as I feigned interest in whatever was playing on television. Being the perfect daughter, I got away with my little white lies, and my parents overlooked my brother's shortcomings. It was easier that way. And even though Ryan had recently achieved Good Son status thanks to his new girlfriend, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had to continue to be the glue that kept my family together.
Which was why it made no sense that I'd been going out of my way the past few months to be the Undesignated Bad Daughter. It was like there was another person inside of me with her hands on the controls, pushing my arms and legs, my mouth. My brain. She was definitely stronger than the normal, good me. But this strong part of me kept my confused and frustrated parts together, the ones that I tried to keep hidden from everybody.
You see, being the good daughter wasn't something I wanted. It was just the way the universe arranged things. No rhyme or reason. I'd give anything for a do-over, a chance at some normalcy. A chance to make mistakes and not always feel like bad behavior meant I deserved banishment to a black vortex.
"Just one teeny prick, Riley. Maybe two, at most. Between your eyebrows. You'll never feel a thing," Drew said. "It'll make you look hot." Drew Zuniga had been in dance club with me at Lone Butte High School since freshman year. She was pretty much my only friend, but I was a quality-over-quantity kind of girlat least, that's what I told myself. It made my friend situation seem Zen instead of serving as reminder that I wasn't very popular, despite having a popular older brother. We had gotten into the habit of chilling at her house after dance practice. It totally beat walking home, especially during the hotter months which, in Phoenix, Arizona, was pretty much every month. And walking was for freshman. The best part was that Drew had gotten a car for her sixteenth birthday and could ferry us around. I had to wait three more months before I'd get to pick out my own car, which was as good as waiting for forever. Today we were standing in her bathroom as I watched her point a clear syringe-like thingy at my face. It was freaky crazy, actually, but Drew was my friend. I trusted her.
The syringe was filled with some type of BOTOX concoction, pilfered from her dad's medicine cabinet. Dr. Zuniga was a plastic surgeon and brought home BOTOX injections for Mrs. Zuniga, who, in her defense, did look like she could fit in with the popular seniors at our school. From a distance, at least.
"But this is creepy." I leaned away from the shiny pointy end as far as the edge of the bathroom counter would allow. "You don't even know what you're doing."
"Sure I do!" Her brown eyes widened with indignation. "I've watched my dad do it a ton. One time I even practiced on an orange. It's just a tiny prick." She paused. "And one time my dad even did it on me. Right here." She pointed to her chin.
"Way. See how smooth the skin feels?"
I squinted at her chin. It did look a little different, maybe rounder. Softer. It might have been my imagination but I thought Drew's chin used to look square. Like a boy's. "But this stuff is supposed to be for moms. With wrinkles," I said.
"And you've got a few already, I hate to tell you, chica" Drew's eyes swept over my face in full I'm-not-really-a-dermatologist-but-I-play-one-on-TV mode.
"Where?" I turned toward the mirror.
"Right there." She pointed to the skin between my eyebrows, which, okay, had a few stray blond hairs that needed plucking.
"Those are freckles." I frowned at her. Teeny orangey-brown spots dotted my forehead like a dartboard.
Drew ignored me. "It'll tighten that skin right up. This stuff is totally preventative. You'll see."
I swallowed as my knees weakened. I could use a little help, that much was certain, but would it make me look pretty? Jenna Gibbons-pretty? Jenna Gibbons was without a doubt the most gorgeous girl in our sophomore class. To make matters worse for every other girl at school, she had a twin sister, Jeniel, who looked exactly like her but wasn't as outgoingwhich was a good thing, because two perfect Jennas on the planet would be more than any girl could handle. With their wavy black hair and killer blue eyes, the twins could seriously be teen models. Why did some girls have all the luck? "But won't it leave a scar?" I said, weakening beneath Drew's unrelenting gaze.
"No scars. It'll just leave a little red mark. Like an ant bite. It'll be gone by tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" My voice rose. "What about tonight? My mom will freak."
Drew's eyes rolled. "Your mom will be at work, like always." Her handthe one holding the syringelowered.
I swallowed again. Drew had a point. No one would see me. Dad would work late on a case or a trial like always, too. Ryan would be at Fred's house, where he was living practically 24/7. (By the way, Fred was a girl. Fred was short for Fredricka, but Fred hated her name and insisted everyone call her Fredand who could blame her? She had an old-lady name, even though she was one of the coolest junior girls at school, in my opinion.)
Besides, I'd overheard Shelley McMahon say at lunch that other girls at school had tried BOTOX, even Jenna Gibbons. That was why I remembered. That was why I was standing in Drew's enormous bathroom, pressed against the double marble sinks, inches from a sadistic-looking syringe, squinting into about one hundred obnoxiously steaming-hot vanity lights. Maybe there was something to this BOTOX frenzy? And maybe feeling pretty was just as important as being pretty. "Okay," I heard myself say. "Do it. Between my eyes. Just once."
Drew flashed a triumphant smile, her thumb ready at the end of the pump. "Trust me, after you see what this will do, you'll be begging for more."
"Won't your dad notice it missing?"
She shrugged. "He hasn't so far."
Then she positioned the syringe inches above my forehead. I sucked in a breath.
"Lean back," she said, reaching for my neck with her other hand.
Every nerve, muscle and brain cell in my body told me that this was stupid and wrong, but I wasn't in control. It was that other girl inside of me, the fiercer, spunkier one who'd been calling the shotsno pun intendedlately. That voice inside my head kept telling me that I needed to be cooler, more spontaneous. Different. Definitely different. So I leaned back, closed my eyes, tilted my head and begged for different.
"Ouch," I said when the needle pierced my skin, freezing my forehead like it'd been doused with dry ice. Then the feeling spread to the rest of my face. "This so better be worth it," I said to Drew through gritted teeth.
Drew took a step back, still holding the syringe in her right hand. She reached inside a jar on the counter that was stuffed with cotton balls.
"It feels like my forehead is on fire."
She dabbed my skin with one of the cotton balls and some other liquid that I couldn't see. "Don't worry. It doesn't last." She took a step back, still studying me, and tossed her pony-tail over her shoulder.
"Better not. I've got the leadership conference this weekend."
Drew frowned. "Good gawd! Total dorkdom, Riley. You might as well wave the white flag on your social life right now."
"And what social life would that be?" I didn't bother hiding my sarcasm. Besides, it wasn't as though Drew had a better social life than I did. Otherwise, why would she be hanging out with me? "It's my parents' fault. They're making me go," I added, which was a complete lie. "And it looks good on college applications." Now that was true. It was pretty hard to get into the Art Institute of Chicagothat was my dreamso I figured I'd need all the help I could get, especially since I was kind of mediocre at anything besides art classes, at least as far as my grade point average was concerned.
I ignored her frown.
But then Drew smiled. She finally said what I longed to hear. What I never heard. "You look different already."
I wanted to believe her. No, scratch that. I needed to believe her. It gave me hope. It lifted weight off my shoulders. For a moment, it was as if my life had real possibilities. Potential. Magic.
Welcome to the inside of my crazy head.
My buddy Peter and I hitched a ride in the bed of Martin Ellis's pickup. Martin drove and Vernon Parker called shotgun. There was a party tonight somewhere near the Estrella foothills. When you lived way out on the Rez like we did, sometimes that was as close to real excitement as you got.
Going out beat the alternative, which was stay home, watch my grandmother weave baskets on the front stoop and pretend that my heart hadn't been pulverized into a thousand pieces.
Martin's truck chugged its way along a single-lane dirt road. The sun had already begun to set and by the time we reached the foothills, the sky would be as black as a bruise. Someone would have already started a campfire and (hopefully) someone else would have brought beerjust a can or two apiece, but that was probably all that anybody could sneak from home.
Peter and I clung to the sides of the truck as Martin charged up and out of bumpy washes that snaked across the Sonoran Desert. Peter was another Rez kid and a junior at Lone Butte High like me. Despite being fifty pounds lighter, he was as tall as I was. That's why our legs kept knocking whenever Martin sped like a madman over the washes. Across the truck bed, Peter kept giving me the stink eye from behind his wire-rimmed glasses, even as his glasses kept slipping down his nose.
"Stop it," he yelled over the grind of the engine.
"Stop what?" I yelled back, tasting a thin layer of dust on my lips.
He shook his head. "Stop thinking about it." Peter and Martin were the only ones I'd told, but I was pretty sure everyone on the Rez knew. Even though the Gila River Indian Reservation stretched forever in just about every direction, it was microscopic, if you know what I mean. Sometimes the biggest places could be the tiniest.
I shrugged and looked away from Peter, preferring to stare across miles of brown desert and dried tumbleweeds as if it were the most exciting scenery in the whole world.
As usual, Martin continued to drive like a maniac. Frankly, I was surprised his old man's truck could do more than thirty-five. If the truck were a hospital patient, someone would definitely be reading it its last rites.
I turned away from Peter and focused on the wake of dust that swirled like a minitornado behind us in the darkening sky. If Peter referred to That Which Shouldn't Be Named one more time, I was seriously thinking about ripping off a truck panel. It was bad enough that Peter even thought it. But he surprised me.
"I can't believe you're gonna bail on us this weekend."
I breathed easier and looked at him. "I know. Can't help it. My mom wants me to go." Total lie. My parents, my dad especially, had stopped being interested in what I did at school ever since I'd started going to Lone Butte High. Not sure why, exactly. But it was better for all of us when they stayed out of my business. Besides, they both worked all the time at the casino on the Rez and Mom was studying for her master's degree whenever she wasn't working, so it was probably easier that they didn't have to worry about me. One less hassle.
"Why don't you tell her that you don't want to go? Martin, Vernon and me, we're gonna drive down to Coolidge. Supposed to be a fair in town or something. Maybe even a rodeo." His eyebrows wiggled. "Maybe even hot rodeo queens."
"You wish," I said.
"A dude can dream. What else I got?"
I laughed. But then I dragged my tongue across my lips, tasting more dust. "Too late for me, anyway," I said. "Already paid for it." Another lie.
"Seriously." What I didn't share was that Lone Butte High School had paid my registration fee to the Maricopa County High School Leadership Conference. They'd paid the fees for the two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors with the highest GPAs. I happened to be one of the two juniors. Sucks to be the other sixty students who were invited but had to pay out of their own pockets. Now all I had to do was show up to school tomorrow morning and board the bus. It would get me to Monday and put about 250 miles of desert between me and the Rez.
"What do you want with some leadership bullshit?" Peter said. "You need someone to tell you what you already know?"
I swallowed. The truth? I really didn't know. My guidance counselor at school, Mr. Romero, had told me about it. He'd said things like conferences and awards looked good on college applications. He'd said I had to be more of a game player, especially since there was a good chance I was going to graduate early and colleges were already starting to inquire about me. Me. Sam Tracy, the smart kid from the Rez.
Unfortunately I stunk at playing games. Just give me something in black-and-white, minus the sugarcoating. Minus the doublespeak.
A part of me knew I couldn't stay in-state, and I think Mr. Romero would just about blow a gasket if I didn't apply to college, not when my SATs were among the highest in Arizona. Too bad that looking good on paper was more important than simply being smart enough.
I closed my eyes and tried to ignore Peter, even as he teased me for the rest of the ride about being the biggest nerd on the Rez. It was probably true.
Peter was lucky he was one of my best friends. Otherwise I would have tossed him out of the truck, which was pretty easy to do when you were my size.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For more reviews go to: http://best-of-ya.blogspot.com/ An unlikely friendship blossoms between Sam Tracy and Riley Berenger when Riley accidentally slips off the side of a mountain and Sam goes after her. The duo spend the night in a rainstorm, wrapped in each others arms to fend off the cold. Sure they are close to death, the two share their deepest, darkest secrets and, once rescued, Riley vows to help Sam win over the love of his life. Sam wants little to do with Riley and her persistent attention; he prefers to spend his time with his friends from the Rez and away from the rich suburban princess and her obnoxious older brother, Ryan. However, Riley has no intention of backing off until she has repaid Sam for saving her life. This was a cute follow up to Hooked--the first book in the series and the story of how Riley's older brother Ryan fell in love with a girl named Fred. I really enjoyed Hooked and therefore was excited about this one as well. However, I read it such a long time ago that I couldn't remember either Riley or Sam's part in the first story. It was great getting to know them again while also having the characters from the first book make an appearance. I thought the dynamic between Riley and Sam was pretty funny. Sam is so surly and standoffish, yet it does not seem to faze Riley (who he refers to as Pink Girl a few times) one bit. She literally follows him home one day after school so she can check out his wardrobe and make sure he has the appropriate attire to attract the girl of his dreams. Despite all his protests, he can’t seem to tell her no and goes along with all her crazy schemes. They could not be more different but it works completely. Both were pretty oblivious about their feelings toward one another and it was a little frustrating how long it took them to finally admit that they actually liked one another. My favorite part about this series though is the diversity of the characters. Both Fred (from Hooked) and Sam are Native Americans who live on the nearby reservation. We actually get an in-depth look into what life on the Rez is like and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read another YA book with characters that have this type of background. Representation is so important and I’m glad to see YA books that don’t shy away from that. 3.5 stars
First thing to note: Played is not exactly a sequel to Hooked, it’s more of a spin-off novel; it follows minor characters that we met in Hooked and focuses mainly on their lives. Just like the predecessor, this novel is shared through two points of view which I was fine with for this book. I actually really liked Riley’s character and I was interested to see her develop away from her brother. On the other hand, I did not care for Sam’s character because I felt that he was trivial and only there to stir up trouble. My mind changed while reading this book though. I feared that this book would be exactly the same as the first book just with reversed roles but it wasn’t, exactly. It did follow the formula of two people helping each other and eventually falling for each other but the cultural differences intrigued me. The “I Read Diverse Books” is currently happening, which I love, and this book fit right in there. I can confidently say that I’ve never read a book about a Native American and their life on the reservation; it was informative and piqued my interests. Some of the situations are outlandish, much like in the first book, which was iffy in my mind. There were some issues with flow and speed of the story-telling much like in the first novel. One of the main notes that I made throughout the novel was that Riley’s “bad girl” behavior didn’t align with what I had collected about her through both books. I understand wanting to step out of your sibling’s shadows but that doesn’t mean that you have to act like someone you aren’t. I could understand if she started drawing on the streets, since she’s an artist, but ditching school and becoming the wild child just didn’t match up. I also could be a poor judge because I was the “good daughter” who never lashed out because I never wanted to, except for dying my hair every color under the sun. Overall, I liked it but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I loved it. I enjoyed the first book more but I am glad that I read this book. I loved that it is completely unique in the cultural aspects to anything that I‘ve read yet and it was beautifully written. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wanted to dip their foot in something new and of course, the love story was pretty great.
It’s not that this book is a roll over from the previous book in the series. However, the two main characters in this story were also in the last story. Plus, Fred and Ryan from Hooked are in this story a lot. So even though it’s not 100% necessary to read the first book, I highly suggest it. Sam and Riley live on two separate ends of the teen sceene. Sam is a boy from the Reservation who keeps to himself. Riley is Ryan’s (the popular boy in school) younger sister. However, when on a camping trip, the two get paired up for a scavenger hunt and find themselves stranded in the middle of a thunderstorm. With Sam’s quick thinking, he’s able to get them through the freezing wet night. Sam tell’s Riley about is love for Fred (Riley’s brother’s girlfriend) and Riley gets it in her head that she’s going to cause a rift between the two love birds and find a way to get Fred to fall madly, deeply in love with Sam instead. I will admit that even though the premise of the story is rather juvenile, the content of the story is not. Not only was the story interesting with the two becoming friends and getting into all sorts of trouble, but there some heart stopping moments as well. I like that the author could’ve just made the store one dimensional and had it based on only the romance the entire time, but she added little surprises that kept me flipping pages faster and faster to see what would happen next. Even though the story is predictable, the author added in a few twist and turns to keep the reader glued to the book. I hope that in the future books we get more Sam, Riley, Fred and Ryan. I wonder who Liz will bring to the forefront next.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Played by Liz Fichera Book Two of the Hooked series Publisher: Harlequin TEEN Publication Date: May 27, 2014 Rating: 3 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley Official Summary: This Game Is Getting All Too Real He said: I like to keep under the radar and mostly hang out with my friends from the rez. But when I saved Riley Berenger from falling off a mountain, that rich suburban princess decided to try to save me. She said: If I can help Sam Tracy win the heart of the girl he can't get over, I'll pay him back for helping me. I promised him I would, no matter what it takes. What I Liked: I had a feeling that I would enjoy this book more than I enjoyed Hooked, book one - and I was right! Hooked got three stars from me, so it's not THAT big of a difference, but overall, I definitely liked this book more. For one, I liked the male protagonist, Sam, a lot, and at times, Riley (the female protagonist). This book picks up where the first book ended - but these books can be read as companion novels. Fred and Ryan are together, and Sam Tracy couldn't be more heartbroken. When he and Riley Berenger (Ryan's younger sister) are stuck together in a leadership conference, things are about to change. The two of them get stranded in the wilderness, and after Sam saves Riley, she is determined to return the favor - in which Riley takes it upon herself to get Fred and Sam together, even though Fred is dating Riley's brother. For most of this book, up until the part where Sam makes some seriously stupid decisions involving Jay Hawkins, I really enjoyed this book! It's different from its predecessor. Riley is meddling in everyone's lives, trying to create problems in Ryan and Fred's relationship, trying to give Sam a makeover, trying to get Sam on the prom court, trying to get Jay Hawkins' attention, trying to get any attention at all, trying to be the not-perfect daughter. At first, I understood Riley, and how she was feeling. It's hard when everyone EXPECTS you to be perfect and never mess up, but siblings or best friends don't have that high standard, and can get away or not get in serious trouble for doing bad things. So, at times, I "got" Riley. I understood her. I could see why she wanted to help Sam. I could understand why she wanted to get the attention of one of the coolest and hottest boys in school. I know the pressure, the feeling of not wanting to be so perfect all the time, of not wanting to have those high standards all the time. I think I liked Riley up until she started acting stupid and brainless. She's a very smart girl. But then she let her emotions get the better of her AND THEN SOME, and it got messy. I didn't like how she reacted to things, in the last fourth of the book. The same goes with Sam - I really liked Sam! He is quiet yet confident, brooding yet sensitive. There are so many good qualities that he has, and selflessness is one of them, which I really liked. I can and can't believe he'd fall for someone like Riley - but then, opposites DO attract. The two of them are weird together. Bad things seem to happen around them. Or maybe just Riley. While book one went in circles, this book definitely did NOT. I was happy to see some serious plot twists and surprises in this book, especially coming down to the end. The author hit many different issues in this book, and seemed to focus less on the Native American culture, which benefited her and the story, more than anything else. Overall, I think I liked this one more, though I hate to be playing the comparison game. I'm glad for the change of characters, the change of pace, the change of focus. Definitely a job better done, Fichera! I mean that nicely. What I Did Not Like: I already mentioned this, but gradually, I started liking Riley less and less. At first, I was like, I can relate to this girl! Then she just went psycho. She got black-out drunk at a party and let Jay Hawkins do nasty things with tequila and take pictures of her while she was so heavily inebriated?! Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Guys, I'm a college student, and I will tell you over and over, LEAVE THE ALCOHOL ALONE. Don't get black-out drunk. Don't get drunk at all. It messes you up, short-term and long-term. Well, it worked against Riley big time. Those pictures were posted on Facebook, and everyone saw them. In this book, the pictures were taken down eventually. In the real world? Things never completely disappear. Things don't really get taken down from Facebook, either. So yeah, I slowly lost respect for Riley. Towards the end of the book, she got stupider and stupider. Things like prom court and breaking up her brother and his girlfriend and running away seemed really, really important. Riley is so immature, and it shows, in the last fourth of the book. For an intelligent girl, she is really dense and lacks common sense. Beginning to the end of the story. Sam. Oh Sam. Why did you have to be one of those boys that has a spotless record and no fighting incidents, right until you meet this one girl? This one girl, that you aren't even dating? Wow. Just... wow. Great decision making there. You had to be THAT GUY that goes apes*** crazy once he's met this girl. Okie dokie, then. So I had issues with the characters. I liked them, but there were issues, and they were a clear impediment on my reading. I feel like the character development in this series is kind of poor. Just saying. Would I Recommend It: If you read the first book, then definitely read this book, because it's worth the read. If you haven't read either book, then you could pass on the series. I knew that I would like this book better, because I really liked Sam in the first book, so I wanted to see how things would work out for him. Read it if you were in the same boat as me, it's worth it! Rating: 3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I definitely liked this book more than I liked the first book, but I still had issues with this book. I guess they're different issues though, which is good in a way. This isn't one of my favorite contemporary series, but I'm glad I gave this book (and Hooked) a chance!
Since I read the previous book in this series, Hooked, and loved it, I was excited to read this book and I had high expectation. Unfortunately, it didn't quite meet them, and I had a couple of issues. But, overall, it was a light, fun, and generally enjoyable YA romance. To be honest, Riley was a problem for me. She came off as spoiled and, at some points, a bit of a brat. I didn't understand how she could justify breaking up her brother's relationship, when it was obvious to one and all how happy he was. I know her stated reason, but I just don't get how she could actually do it. And, this is just one of several occurrences where she did really stupid things for no justifiable reason. And, it all made her seem rather shallow and petty. Towards the end, she got a reality check and did some growing up. But, I still wasn't a fan. Sam, on the other hand, was all that was adorable. He was so sweet and the epitome of a gentleman. He was a bit awkward and shy and I found that to be totally endearing. He was wonderful and amazing and I completely and totally loved him. If I would say to read this book for anything, it would be for his total adorableness. The romance was okay. I wasn't feeling it too much because I didn't like Riley. But, since I wanted Sam to be happy, I wanted them to end up together. The plot was good. I wasn't totally hooked, but I was kept generally interested the entire way through. I enjoyed the story and I thought the ending was nice. Played was a good YA romance. Light and sweet, it was an enjoyable read. I didn't love it, but I liked it fine. At the very least, its worth checking out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
A great follow-up to HOOKED. Realistic characters and compelling story. I loved it!