August 19, 2014

Push: The Game, Book 2

by Eve Silver
Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins
978-0-06219221-9(hc)
978-0-06219218-9 (ebook) 
978-1-46767679-3 (audio)
352 pp.
Ages 13-17
June, 2014
Reviewed from Harper Audio edition

When Miki Jones last saw her new boyfriend Jackson Tate, they'd been pulled from their high school reality to fight the alien Drau yet again, and she'd witnessed Jackson's death.  Upon her return, with no time evidently passing, Jackson does not respawn with her, suggesting he is truly gone. Strangely he has not been wiped from anyone's memory, and his car and keys are still at the pizza place, which should not happen if he'd died.

Luka, who is also part of the Game, (see my review of Rush for an explanation about how teens are pulled into it), suggests that Jackson may not be dead but being dealt with by the Committee for breaking one of their many rules. Regardless, she is now the team leader and making decisions for Luka, Tyrone, Kendra and Lien when they get pulled next to fight the Drau. This fight with the Drau reveals even more questions for Miki, beyond where Jackson is.  Why are Kendra's scores so high for a player who is so terrified and hangs back? Why are there so many similarities between video games they play and the Game? And is the girl with the green eyes who saves Miki's life really Jackson's dead sister Lizzie or a Drau shell in Lizzie's image?

When Miki respawns, uninjured, to meet with the Committee, she learns that they have Jackson and are attempting to "discipline" him for inappropriate actions.  Even though Miki is in love with Jackson, she is very honest about his actions and she debates with the Committee about their own recklessness and leadership responsibilities.  They may respect her arguments but when given a choice, Miki can do nothing else but remain in the Game.

Though Jackson and Miki are reunited shortly thereafter, their relationship continues to be strained with new circumstances, including the Drau breaking into Miki and Jackson's living world at a school Halloween dance, with the suspicious attention two girls at school begin to have in Miki and Jackson, and their choices about revealing certain truths and not others.  Yep, a completely natural teen relationship with some alien-fighting game to add more tension.

I realized how annoyed I was getting at Miki for her continuous flip-flopping about trusting Jackson: Is he really into her?  Is he telling her the truth about everything? Can she trust him with her secrets? Will he put her in jeopardy with his choices? Should she tell him about his sister?  One minute she is defending him to the death, thrilled to be in his arms, and then she's condemning him for not telling her everything which must indicate how he feels about her.  But, I realized that Miki who admittedly has anxiety issues is reacting as a person who has experienced trauma: her mother died from lung cancer, her father is now drinking excessively and denying his addiction, and Miki is part of a game that requires that she annihilate scary and powerful Drau who want to take over her world. Her irritability and mood swings are actually the least of her problems, especially when she really doesn't have anyone she can talk to about all of it.

Sadly, for Miki, Eve Silver takes her even closer to the edge by the end of Push, although this is fortunate for readers of The Game.  The heart-stopping action of the Game itself will have readers expecting the Drau to appear at any moment, even more so after they push into the teens' reality and civilians such as Miki's best friend Carly can end up in the Game without being pulled by the Committee.  The changing rules make everyone a little more jittery and defensive.  It's hard to be on the offensive when you don't know what the rules are anymore.  And by creating a self-righteous, all-knowing committee to oversee the Game, Push becomes part of an allegory about war and power. Eve Silver takes Rush and Push beyond the video game-scenario and into a global sphere in which humans are simply pawns and terror can be used to control them. Thankfully Miki and Jackson's romance is the one bright light that suggests that love may triumph over all. But we will need to wait until 2015 when Crash, the third book in The Game series comes out to see whether this is ultimately true.

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