The Forbidden Game: The Hunter; The Chase; The Kill - L.J. Smith Finally finished the entire trilogy, and overall, 4 STARS. I must say, this is one of the better YA novels that I've read. I would recommend this read for younger teens for optimal enjoyment, but don't let that stop you if you're an adult.

This one volume contains three books, each with its own plot and story. Here my reactions for each book as I finish:

The Hunter

This story begins when Jenny stumbles into a shop to buy a game for her boyfriend's birthday. She is greeted by an inhumanly beautiful boy, who sells her a game to lure her into the shadow world where she and her friends must face their darkest fears. If they win, they get to leave. If they lose, Jenny must stay with the dark price who has fallen in love with her.

The story was intriguing. The concept of the Game reminded me a lot of the movie Labyrinth. But instead of fuzzy muppets, we get actual nightmarish creatures. While the nightmares did get repetitive and formulaic after a while, what really struck me was how well the author wrote Julian. He's a charming, handsome, dangerous Grade A serial stalker...and yet, despite his psychopathic tendencies, it's hard to ignore his charisma and appeal. The interactions between Julian and Jenny are balancing acts that teeter between fear and intrigue.

Story rating: 3.5+ stars, but not quite 4 stars

The Chase

This story has two main parts: pre-Game and post-Game. The first part of the book focused on the remaining six players dealing with Summer's death, while frantically trying to locate the thieves who may or may not have released Julian once more. Of course, he comes back, and he's hell bent on making Jenny fulfill her promise. His method: Another Game.

I liked the character development in this story. Circumstances force Jenny to stand on her own and become a stronger woman. I also related to Jenny's confusion about herself and how that led to changes in her relationship with Tom. Though Julian didn't make an appearance until the middle of the book, the interactions between him and Jenny that followed were electric. The beginning was a bit slow, but the story really picked up pace after prom.

Story rating: 3.5 to 4 stars

The Kill

This was the best story out of the three. Jenny and her friends jump into action as soon as the book starts. We get to know about the Shadow World, Julian, and the Shadow Men.

Jenny at the end of this book is a very different from the person in the first. She's stronger, independent, and truly becomes a heroine. We also get to see a side of Julian that transforms him from villain to anti-hero. The ending was beautiful and sad.

Story rating: 4 stars

Overall, 4 STARS for this entire volume and highly recommended for younger teens.