Big Game: Dan Smith
March 10, 2015
Book: Big Game
Author: Dan Smith
Age Range: 10-14
Big Game by Dan Smith is a novel based on the screenplay for a 2014 Finnish action-adventure movie. It has an action movie pace, a book that one rushes through to find out what will happen next. I couldn't put it down, and read it in about a day. The narrator is Oskari, a Finnish boy about to turn 13. Oskari is sent out alone into the wilderness near his home on an overnight hunt by his tribe, expected to come home with the head of an animal (the bigger the better). In the woods, Oskari encounters the U.S. President, whose plane has been shot down. Hunted themselves, Oskari and the President must fight for their lives.
Much as with an action movie, some suspension of belief is necessary when reading Big Game. I won't ruin your suspense by giving specific examples, but it is nevertheless a fun ride. Big Game is also a bit of an unlikely buddy story, with banter between the young boy and the self-proclaimed leader of the free world. Like this:
"My name is Oskari."
"Oh, right. Oskari. Well, you can call me William. Or Bill."
"Bill? Why not Alan?"
"I guess my mother preferred 'Bill'."
"Bill." I said the name again, testing the sound of it, but somehow it didn't feel right. "No. I'll call you President. It's more interesting." (Page 96, ARC)
There's inherent entertainment in the contrast between Oskari, raised to be a woodsman, though far from the best of his tribe, and the powerful world leader who is unaccustomed to physical deprivation. Oskari becomes downright arrogant about the fact that he's the one who knows what to do, not President.
Here's an example of Smith's narrative writing:
"A surge of panic welled up inside me and snapped me out of the trance. It was like being suddenly woken from a nightmare and I scrambled backward as fast as I could, breathless and desperate to get away. I pushed through the ferns until I was deep enough into the forest to risk getting to my feet, then I turned and ran for my life. My muscles were stiff from lying down for so long, but there was more than enough fear in me to get them moving." (Page 49)
Big Game is definitely 13-year-old boy friendly, though I think that anyone who likes fast-paced adventure or survival stories will like Big Game. Amazon lists Big Game as being for ages 10-14, but to me it has more of a young adult than middle grade vibe. Perhaps because the body count is fairly high, with no fantasy elements to soften the impact. Big Game is one that I'm putting on my relatively short "pass on to my husband" stack. It's a quick, suspenseful read that will leave readers breathless. The movie will be released later this year. Recommended!
Publisher: Chicken House (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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