Review: NERVE by Jeanne Ryan

SERIES: Standalone
GENRE: Young Adult, Thriller and Mystery
PUBLISHER: Dial Books
PAGES: 304 pages (Hardcover edition)
RATING: ★☆☆☆☆

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vee doesn’t know if she has the guts to play NERVE, an anonymous online game of dares. But whoever’s behind the game knows exactly what she wants, enticing her with lustworthy prizes and a sizzling-hot partner. With Ian on her team, it’s easy to agree to another dare. And another. And another. At first it’s thrilling as the Watchers cheer them on to more dangerous challenges. But suddenly the game turns deadly. Will Vee and Ian risk their lives for the Grand Prize dare, or will they lose NERVE?

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Late last year I came across a trailer for a film called NERVE. I was quickly enamoured by the vibrancy and manic energy this film presented. Soon after when I found out it had been adapted from a book, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up from my library. However despite it’s promising plot, I was less than impressed with the execution of this story and calling this book mediocre would be a compliment.

My first problem with Nerve was it’s woefully average characters. It’s evident the author was heavily relying on tropes. Our main character, Vee, is a depicted as the cliche shy teenager who lives in the shadow of her very outgoing best friend, Sydney. Alongside this, the side characters are also very cliche, such as the male sidekick that is secretly lusting over Vee whilst she lusts over the popular douchebag.

This book also has a really ambitious plot. Consequently, I felt that the introduction to the characters and who they are was a little lazy in order to move forward with the plot. I felt this way because I noticed how much time was spent telling the reader what the characters are like, as opposed to showing the reader through better dialogue and actions. For example:

“How could I be so stupid? Recklessness is not part of my personality. Shy, hard-working, loyal, all those boring Capricorn traits, that’s me.”

I’m as big of a believer in horoscopes as the next girl is, but this statement felt ridiculous. Who is possibly under the impression that they are limited by what they’re horoscope says? The fact that she’s a capricorn is mentioned multiple times in order describe Vee’s personality or actions and it really shouldn’t have been.

More over, these characters felt really un-organic. Along with my former complaint, I felt as if the author was trying too hard to make her characters sound like teenagers and for me their characterisation really suffered. A lot of dialogue employed was quite cliché, and I’d rather the characters say and act in accordance with personal character traits as opposed to what someone thinks teenagers say.

Some of the reasoning behind the dares was a little inconsistent. At first, it was obvious Vee was motivated to complete the dares because she wanted to shock people. As the dares become increasingly risky, her friends try to talk her out of it, but she remains quite naïve thinking that the game isn’t meant to ‘risk your life. Just make it seriously uncomfortable.’ But also, those things in some instances can be quite similar.

Therefore the justification of doing the dares becomes about the prizes, and as discussed by our protagonists ‘someone with a trust fund’ wouldn’t understand that motivation. However, when the rewards are initially phones, camping gear and pretty shoes…. I fail to see how someone’s reasoning for putting themselves in danger is by being ‘underprivileged’. The rewards do become worth their while as the dares become riskier, but there is no way they could’ve predicted this as Vee knew barely anything about NERVE prior to joining (even though it was a social phenomenon.)

I was also angered by some of the descriptions. They were nonsensical and/or unnecessary:

“A pink-cheeked girl and her boyfriend stroll past us on their way inside. They giggle and hold hands, their shy glances suggesting they haven’t had their first kiss yet, which makes me feel worldly in comparison, although I haven’t gone much beyond the kissing stage myself.”

Why was this even brought up? This is the most redundant think I’ve ever read.

“Daniella, freshly iced with thick lipstick that would give ancient prostitutes some serious competition…”

 

…okay, and?

I briefly touched upon the fact that a lot of lines were cliché, but that extends further than the dialogue. The relationships the character has and the characters, were very typical as well. Vee is always depicted as second best to her best friend Sydney, because Sydney is a blonde and her presence just ‘demands’ the spotlight. But Vee isn’t anything special because she has brown hair and blue eyes!? (Ahem, Megan Fox has brown and blue eyes.)

There was also a really weird prologue at the beginning of the story. I waited for this prologue to make sense but it never really did and I’m left with so many questions. (It is totally possible I missed something, but I can’t make a connection on how it fitted within the timeline of the story or what was even happening.)

Ultimately, I felt this was just a poor execution of a really good idea. The movie adaptation was definitely better and had an energy to it that was really enticing, with charming leads. I would highly recommend the movie over the book.

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Thank you for reading, and if you’ve made it here, thanks for managing to get through this long-winded rant review! Carly

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