I am slowly working my way through all the books I bought for my classroom library. I want to be able to put books into the hands of my students and to be able to say something meaningful about them. Although I am way past my teen years, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by the calibre of the teen fiction out there today. I’m not talking about the mega hits like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series which, sure, teens read en masse but which I can’t say is quality literature by any stretch. I’m not talking about better-written fare like The Hunger Games. I’m talking about those quiet, often over-looked, books that speak directly to young adults about things they care about and things they worry about: divorce, illness, love, sex, abuse, drugs and alcohol. Those sorts of books were few and far between when I was growing up – which is why everyone and their dog read Judy Blume’s novel, Forever or Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.
Dana Davidson’s novel Played tells the story of handsome and talented Ian Striver, a boy who does know the difference between right and wrong, but who also wants – more than anything – to be accepted into an elite group at his school. Ian has made it past the induction phase of FBI (Freaky Boys Incorporated) but now he must pass one final test: he has to bed someone chosen for him by members of the FBI.
Kylie is the girl and it is impossible not to fall in love with her. She’s smart, she’s kind, she values the right things (her family: single mom and her younger brother and sister) and even when a little voice tells her that it can’t be possible that a boy like Ian could fall for a plain girl like her, she allows herself to fall in love with him.
Ian, on the other hand, was so fine and so popular that he could have any girl he wanted. Kylie wasn’t sure what, but she felt that something wasn’t quite right.
But the truth was that she wanted something more to happen to her. She went to school, took care of her siblings, kept their house clean, did her homework and saw her girlfriends from time to time. But that wasn’t enough. It seemed to Kylie that a perfectly healthy, reasonably intelligent teenage girl ought to be able to get into more than that. Kylie felt as if her life was more like that of a thirty-five-year-old than that of a sixteen-year-old. So while she had her suspicions about why Ian was taking time with her, she was going to let it ride and see where it took her.
While Ian does set out to play Kylie for his own gain, Davidson does a terrific job of making him likeable and complicated. Played does not play out exactly as the reader might anticipate and I enjoyed it a great deal.