The bonus girls are worth more points if a Hitter is able to get them into bed. The first Hitter there gets to claim the points. After someone claims points, the girl will lose her bonus status and become like every other girl in the game.
Welcome to the game! Sorry, welcome to the story I mean. When Sadie moves across the country to attend a new school, The Conservatory, she's introduced to the game. Before going into the details of the game, we'll stay with Sadie for a moment. She moves across the country after she suffered an injury after a mistake her dance partner, and then boyfriend, make that left her without a scholarship. Meanwhile, her then boyfriend got a scholarship, and Sadie can't help feeling betrayed, left behind, and she wonders if what they had was real. At her new school, she meets Brielle, her new roommate who, like Sadie, has an absentee mother. She also meets Adam, Brielle's friend. Also, of course, Sadie meets Luke, campus heartthrob who flirts with everything that moves.
Now, back to the game. It's a campus game where the male students who join in are looking to score. Literally. They get point when they sleep with a girl, and some girls (they vote on which) are worth extra points. These girls' names are official on a blog that hosts the game. The guys sign up and some of the rules are: consent is a must, no alcohol can be used by the Hitter (the participant) to alter a girl's state of consciousnesses but if she does it to herself, you're good to go, you must prove you had sex (pictures, underwear, video, etc.. Have fun.
Yeah, have fun.
I'll discuss the game more in-depth later in the review, because for a large part of the story it is merely a backdrop, something going on outside of Sadie's world. So we'll start with Sadie. She has trust issues like, well, the typical New Adult heroine that she is. Her ex-boyfriend/dance partner accidentally dropped her during a dance, which left her injured and Sadie lost her shot at a scholarship. Due to this, she's unable to trust people and her dancing is affected when she's unable to partner with someone else. (She's also iffy about partnering with someone who isn't gay, or she isn't in a relationship too, because screw professionalism, right?) In the beginning, it's easy to sympathize with Sadie. Her mother is absent and offers no motherly support, and after Sadie's boyfriend left her, it's not hard to understand where she's coming from. Yes, in the beginning, this is all fine and good, but at some point (even before 80% of the characters have called Sadie out on it) you lose interest, and what initially was sympathize for Sadie turns into frustration and the need to tell her to grow up. She hangs onto her anger, feels like she's entitled to something better, and acts much like a baby.
Then Sadie meets Luke, local heartthrob and... it's not quite as much insta-love as usual NA, but there's definitive some insta-something-alike there. Luke, whom she is later forced to dance with, is a flirt. Sadie is unable to trust him when partnered, and instead she decides to practice with Adam (who she is able to dance with because, you know, he's gay). Anyhow, despite what it may sound like, I did like how Luke and Sadie's relationship developed, at times. Kinda. Maybe. Okay, maybe not really. It's mostly due to Luke's whiplash personality. One second he's cold, then hot, then cold. Sadie calls him out on it - good for her - but throughout the story there's never a reason revealed why Luke acts the way he does. He has some trust issues himself, and he, too, is iffy about relationships, but that doesn't suffice to rationale or explain his actions. I also lost respect for him at the end of the book, when certain reveals are made. I also dislike how Sadie dealt with the revelations, but most how they were portrayed in general.
Now there will be some mentions about the game, but mostly it's how Sadie reacts to it. Sadie is one of the bonus girls, those that are worth more point if you sleep with them. Her name is official on the blog, and she's aware of it. She's aware of the rules and stakes. Here's the thing: several times she wonders why no one is stepping up and stopping the game, why no one takes it up with the school. She sees girls (and talks to some of them) and wonder why they let themselves be used by the game. Even when things gets out of hand and a girl is sexually harassed, she doesn't do anything. Actually, she acts as if the game is no big deal, not really. The girls know about it, she thinks, so what's the harm? (Not her exact words, but it's how it sounds.) Yet, when some girls take advantage of the game (uses it to sleep with boys), Sadie somehow looks down on these women, asking them if they don't know they're being used for points? I'll discuss this more in a short while.
For the game, I'm not undecided. It's a horrible thing. The rules says that all parties must consent, but it's quiet clear that consent, to some people, is easy to go around or overlook. Especially on college campuses. Then turning women into something men can receive points for, if that's not dehumanizing, I don't know what is. Given the nature of the game, this will certainly seduce some guys that feel entitled to women's bodies to joining in. It's a perfect setup for boosting the notion that women are for men, and men can use them however they want.
Moving on to the rule that says no alcohol is allowed to change the woman's state of consciousness, but it's okay if she does it to herself. First of all, this rule would be incredibly easy to go around. So you as (male) participant is not allowed to give the women drinks, but there's no saying your best friend can give them to her. Also, it's good to remember that if the woman is drunk and unable to make sound decisions, then that can be considered rape. What the rule basically says is that it not okay if you give her alcohol and sleep with her, but if she drinks herself drunk, it's her fault for having sex with you even if she doesn't want to. That sounds like victim blaming. Oh, wait, that's exactly what victim blaming is.
Then there's the rule about proof. Proof could be underwear, pictures, and videos. Let's begin with the fact that sharing a picture of video of this nature against the other person's knowing, that's a crime. While it may only be shared by the "hitter" and the person hosting the game is still sharing that picture or video. Once again this encourages the notion that women are for men, and men are allowed to do what they wish when it comes to women.
The problem isn't that the game is in the story, it's the way it's treated. Characters might point out that they are hurt by it, but there's no discussing how sexist and degrading the game is in itself. There's no one pointing out what the game says about women, femininity, and society's view of women. This is the issue. When it's revealed who's behind the game and its origin, there are still no discussion about this, just how it was started from a misguided point of view, of confusion and frustration, but not about the obvious lack of respect for women the inventor of the game had (and might possibly still have).
This book had a good concept. It had a story that could've, if done well, evoke strong feelings, exposing dark parts of society's view on women, men, and sex, but it failed greatly. Instead it avoids going deep or opening up questions that most people might not want to ask themselves in favor for some hesitant romance, girl-on-girl hate, and Sadie's trust issues.