Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Cylin Busby
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Nico hasn’t always been an only child. Her sister, Sarah, disappeared four years ago. For years, her family followed leads, but without ever getting any closure. Just when Nico thinks she can move on from the tragedy of her sister’s disappearance, the family hears news. A girl turns up who says her name is Sarah Walker, but her retrograde amnesia has left her with holes in her memory so that she doesn’t remember what happened to her. Nico’s parents bring Sarah home, and the family starts to ease her back into normal life, even after the unknown traumas she’s endured. Nico is pleasantly surprised. She once received constant abuse from her sister, but now Sarah is seeking connection and friendship. Their relationship flourishes in ways that it never could have before. Nico wonders whether it’s possible for a person to change this much. But she tries not to question it, because she prefers the sister she gained to the sister she lost.
The Stranger Game is a pleasant surprise! Though it is not especially action-heavy, it could be classified as a thriller, as it keeps its readers hooked by strategically withholding information in a way that quickly builds suspense. Author Cylin Busby is skilled at writing interesting characters that the reader quickly develops attachments to. However, she also manages to create a sense of mystery, so that readers may question whether they really have all of the information about the beloved characters. Though the writing is not especially complex and so could be accessible to those who aren’t strong readers, some of the subject matter is intense and would not be suitable for young readers. There are breaks in the main narrative where a different narrator describes abuse (primarily sexual and verbal). Though these descriptions are not as graphic as they could have been, they still qualify as sensitive content that younger readers should be protected from.
*Contains moderate language, mild sexual content, and mild violence.