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Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
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Black Chalk (2013)

by Christopher J. Yates

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2262151,336 (3.41)5
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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
“Black Chalk” is an honest and interesting portrayal of the dynamic in a friendship group. There are two different narratives in the story, told in the past and present. At Oxford University, there are six friends, Chad, Jolyon, Emilia, Dee, Mark, and Jack, who become involved in a game of dares and consequences. They realize that as they continue playing, the stakes grow higher and the animosity grows between them.
The book is advertised as “six strangers, five survivors”, so instantly, the suspense grows to see who will not survive. Survive as in death or survive as in staying in the game? Unfortunately, you find out in the last two chapters, so the suspense has died over the length of the book. I have lots of praise and lots of dismay for this book.

The two narratives are told very separately. One is a written story by the character, Jolyon. The second narrative is from his perspective. We learn this early in the book, however, I interpreted that Chad was the main character, but over time, you realize that Jolyon’s story is not reliable. Jolyon was tormented by the past and his own dementia, so it makes for an interesting and unreliable narration.

The characters in this book are very likeable, and are relatable. The friendship dynamic reminds me of the ones in “A Beautiful Mind” and especially “The Dead Poet’s Society”, perhaps further exemplified by the school campus setting. I really enjoyed the characters, Jolyon and Chad, for their friendship. They start out as strangers, Chad on a study abroad, the American in England cliché. They connect very well and quickly, which causes some rivalry. In addition, I like that this book is contemporary, but it’s not telling of the times. It could have taken place last year or ten years ago. The characters are not dated by their music, art, or film tastes, like many books I have read before.

Naturally, I must address the faults I found. As interesting as the characters were, I do feel that six characters was too many. I feel that there could have been only five, that Mark and Jack were very similar and not fleshed out enough to be two separate characters. In addition, the “game” that they actually play does include dares and consequences, but the actual dice/cards/cups gameplay is confusing.
In addition, Jolyon’s perspective was muddled and confusing. He leaves notes and creates mnemonic devices for himself. We see him fourteen years later, but he acts as if he is a completely different character. The Jolyon we loved and admired is now a shell of the person he was. I understand that the events of the book have changed him, however, there isn’t a glimmer of the character we loved, so it’s hard to sympathize with him later down the line. We’re supposed to care about this poor man, but we don’t. He’s just a weird, old man. We eventually find out why, but it’s past the point of no return, where we don’t feel badly that we don’t sympathize with him.

Lastly, the game of dares is supposed to be scary, embarrassing, and overwhelming, but we hardly read about any of the dares that were completed. We mostly heard the characters talk them after the fact.
I did thoroughly enjoy this, it just seemed less exciting and thrilling than I hoped it to be. It was a bit slow, but it was well written. I would recommend it, but I just don’t want anyone getting their hopes up that this is as good as the next Stephen King bestseller or the next “Gone Girl”. It’s thrilling, but only about a quarter of the time. ( )
  dianaiozzia | Mar 31, 2017 |
Read it because of rave reviews. Not that impressed. Would probably make a pretty good movie. ( )
  Kaytron | Feb 28, 2017 |
2.71
  johnrid11 | Feb 14, 2016 |
A group of college students in England come up with what is basically a pretentious version of "truth or dare" minus the truth. Three strangers who call themselves the Game Soc (short for 'society') back them financially and brood around while the game is being played. This was just a bunch of kids at uni desperate to be liked, irritated when they realized what was so unlikeable about themselves and just generally taking the piss at each other. If there was something sinister, it never showed up. The Game Soc appears to be connected all over the world at one point, but theyu're not evil minions or somesuch. Overhyped but with a cleaner, more eventual storyline, could have turned into something excellent. ( )
  grammarchick | Jan 5, 2016 |
A group of college students in England come up with what is basically a pretentious version of "truth or dare" minus the truth. Three strangers who call themselves the Game Soc (short for 'society') back them financially and brood around while the game is being played. This was just a bunch of kids at uni desperate to be liked, irritated when they realized what was so unlikeable about themselves and just generally taking the piss at each other. If there was something sinister, it never showed up. The Game Soc appears to be connected all over the world at one point, but theyu're not evil minions or somesuch. Overhyped but with a cleaner, more eventual storyline, could have turned into something excellent. ( )
  grammarchick | Jan 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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Book description
ONE GAME.
SIX STUDENTS.
FIVE SURVIVORS.

How well do you know your best friends?
How far would you go to protect them?
How far would you go to break them?


It was only ever meant to be a game. A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University.

But then the game changed — the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.

Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.

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One game. Six students. Five survivors. It was only ever meant to be a game. A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.… (more)

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