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Friday, December 14, 2012

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

Title: Nerve
Author: Jeanne Ryan
Format Acquired: Hardcover 
Publication Date: September 13, 2012
Publishing House: Dial Books (Penguin) 
ISBN: 9780803738324
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Are you playing the game? Or is the game playing you?

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?

           (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


With the overabundance of reality shows where people basically bare all - pun not intended - in front of the camera in order to satisfy millions of viewers who have unknowingly ventured and reveled in capitalist voyeurism, the first thing that Ryan's Nerve throws in the reader's face is: When will NERVE become a reality?

NERVE is a game where people complete dares, capture the footage on video, and upload them online for all to see. These dares are issued by an anonymous group who trade your completed dares for all your heart could possibly desire. The more popular and trending you are, the better the prizes get, and the more dangerous and risky the dares eventually become. Vee, our female protagonist, is sick of playing second-fiddle to her attention-loving best friend, Sydney. Feeling particularly bold, she then chooses the same night she gets her heart broken by the sleaziest guy ever (who, of course, wants in on her best friend's pants) to claim her share of a little limelight. When her unintentionally risque video becomes viral, NERVE begins to slowly hook her in with promises of limited edition shoes, makeovers, and a full ride to fashion school. Vee's descent into the eventual mantra of addicts worldwide ("What's one more hit/drink/shoe?") is then inevitable. Throw in the cliched "hottest guy everrr" as her partner, and you've got a heroine who's basically throwing her dignity and life and friends and sense and family away to get the material things she wants, and get some time with the aforementioned guy.

I have genuinely mixed feelings about this book. While I did not particularly care for the characters at all (ego-centric, whiny heroines who have a sense of entitlement paired with male love interests who aside from having absolutely no character and depth are not my thing), I couldn't help but think if this was Ryan's intended outcome in the first place. Ryan puts together characters who are intent on giving up their individual piece of humanity to stake a claim that they are real, they are alive, and that they exist. Isn't that how reality TV operates anyway? Nerve hits a raw spot in today's society. How often have we watched brutality at its finest in the form of reality TV, and applauded each other for the worst comments we could ever think of? How many times has society climbed all over each other just to gnaw at the juicy dangling piece of flesh? Isn't it striking how humanity has succumbed to such low extents, by behaving like cretins, in order to claim the golden apple that would enable one to flaunt one's superiority over others? 

However, I am still quite disappointed that this isn't the book I thought it would be. I thought the dares would be really exhilarating and interesting, but all the readers get would be sleazy dares masquerading as "thrilling". This book introduced me to different kinds of irritating. Ian was just plain annoying. A "perfect guy" like that has got to have skeletons in the closet, and there were enough hints in the book to point toward that direction. But does Ryan expound on his story? Nope. All I read about Ian are comments about his being eye candy. And who wants to be that guy who's only good for his looks? Uh, no thanks. Vee, on the other hand, is wring-her-skinny-little-neck irritating. So she's looking for some excitement in her life, and some little attention. But does that mean that she has to go far as to sacrifice her moral values, AND have to keep whining about it? And just like any run-of-the-mill heroine, all guys - old, young, rich, poor - just have to salivate over her when she's obviously always throwing a pity party for herself. Then she starts to complain that the guys who are drooling over her are total creeps. News flash, girl. When you parade yourself as a streetwalker, you are bound to encounter creeps. When you do this in front of the camera, well, you can only expect that the dividing line between what is real and what is staged can be blurred. 

Altogether, Nerve is both frustrating, and thought-provoking - I seriously pondered on what kind of low-level intelligence, bloodthirsty creatures we were slowly turning into - I found that the selling point of Nerve isn't the base storyline itself, but the actual concept that we are already shelling out money to act / look like the people we see in the media, who in turn, want to become the people who are already thrust in the spotlight. Pick this up if you're angry at the media, capitalists, and whatnot, but if you're looking for more with regards to the actual storyline, well, you might be left a little peeved.



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