Small Game
August 26, 2022
Book Review

Small Game

reviewed by Fiona Cook

It should have been easy – six weeks of playing a reality TV survival game should have been a breeze for Mara, the daughter of survivalists who grew up to take a job as an employee of a survival school. 

 And the promised payday at the end was more than enough to sweeten the deal – more than enough to start the life she truly wants to live. But the contestants wake up one morning to discover that something has gone wrong – or the producers of Civilization are throwing them one truly outrageous curveball. Either way, survival just turned from a game into something real – and Mara will have to call on every skill she has to keep herself and the group alive.

Small Game is the debut novel from Blair Braverman, though not her first book; she’s also written about her life as a musher, and she has a clear and well-honed voice. It’s clear that her own experiences shaped this novel – in addition to dog-sledding, she appeared on a special episode of Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid – lending an authenticity to the behind-the-reality-scenes aspect of this book that made it easy to speed through.

But for me it was the characters, and the emotional journey they faced alongside simply surviving, that made this book such a gripping read. They’re all very different individuals, with their own strengths and weaknesses, and the author had me so invested in seeing them overcome every challenge thrown at them. They felt real, as did their situation, and that’s the kind of investment the reader needs for a novel like this to really succeed. You have to need them to survive to feel the sense of dread that dawns whenever you’re allowed to remember that maybe they won’t – that for all their struggle, they’re not guaranteed anything.

If you’re looking for a story that will have your heart in your mouth, and keep you reading late into the night having to know what happens – look no further. If you want to share in the joys and despairs of a group of people giving their all to surviving – here they are. I really loved this book, and hope to see more from Blair Braverman soon.

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