ARC Review: The Believing Game by Eiriann Corrigan

title:  The Believing Game

author: Eireann Corrigan

pages: 384

format: Kindle Netgalley ARC

isbn/asin: 978-0545299831

buy it: Amazon

rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of thrillers, crime shows, and suspense. Readers of Ellen Hopkins, Speak, teen issue books, Easy, Pushing the Limits, and similar fare.

A private academy. A cult leader. A girl caught in the middle.

After Greer Cannon discovers that shoplifting can be a sport and sex can be a superpower, her parents pack her up and send her off to McCracken Hill-a cloistered academy for troubled teens. At McCracken, Greer chafes under the elaborate systems and self-help lingo of therapeutic education. Then Greer meets Addison Bradley. A handsome, charismatic local, Addison seems almost as devoted to Greer as he is to the 12 steps. When he introduces Greer to his mentor Joshua, she finds herself captivated by the older man's calm wisdom. Finally, Greer feels understood.

But Greer starts to question: Where has Joshua come from? What does he want in return for his guidance? The more she digs, the more his lies are exposed. When Joshua's influence over Addison edges them all closer to danger, Greer decides to confront them both. Suddenly, she finds herself on the outside of Joshua's circle. And swiftly, she discovers it's not safe there.

the basics
I had pretty high hopes going into this book.  I like cult stuff.  It's just creepy and psychological and awesome.  The Believing Game was pretty creepy and psychological, but it fell just short of awesome.  Not that I didn't enjoy it.  Greer was a fantastic viewpoint character.  She's got a lot of inner strength paired with a lot of insecurities and issues that make her complex and very real.  The supporting cast is well fleshed-out and represents a lot of different maladies of the human psyche.  What fell flat for me was the extent of the cult stuff.  I thought the creation of the whole group went a little too quickly to be realistic, and I still have no idea why there's a knife on the cover because it makes it look a lot more deadly than it is.  However, I did think Corrigan did a great job of showing how cult leaders worm their way in to vulnerable people's lives.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I'd pick up more from this author.

plot . 4/5
We start with Greer's fall, which I like.  Right into the action.  Except then there's this bit where we go into storytime mode and Corrigan describes Greer's first few months in summary fashion before we go back to action.  It was jarring for me.  Either we should have lived some of those first few months, or the story should have started when Greer meets Addison several months into her treatment (in that case, summary would have made sense).  After that, it picks up a lot.  I had a hard time putting it down.  It's the kind of frustrating read where you can see the characters being idiots, but it's so believable because it's set up in such a realistic manner.  It's creepy.  It's intense, and at times, horrifying.  So good-frustrating.  As I mentioned, I thought the "cult" formed a little too quickly.  We see a lot more of Greer's descent into it than the others'.  The end is quick, too, and I was bummed not finding out what happens to Greer's friends.  However, the epilogue was great.  It was clearly not a fairy tale ending but it wasn't melodramatically tragic either.  And overall, I thought the events and the characters' reactions to the cult leader, Joshua, were believable.

concept . 5/5
A manipulative guy taking advantage of troubled teens to form his own little mini-cult?  What a fantastic concept.  It's no Manson craziness either.  It feels like something that could happen, and probably does.  Adults with a touch of crazy who get off on being worshiped.  Teens with no direction looking to someone who seems to care and latching on--and getting pulled in too far.  The setting at the teen rehabilitation school was therefore perfect, I thought.  Joshua's mission for the cult is also hysterically ridiculous, but since the characters all comment on it, it becomes funny instead of eye-rolling.

characters . 5/5
The characters were the strongest part for me.  Greer's voice is super clear in the writing.  I felt like I was reading someone's inner monologue sometimes.  She's also so complex, but not a teen soap opera kind of way.  She has problems but they're not that outrageous and she recognizes a lot of her own faults, even as she falls prey to them.  She's also torn between craving belonging and knowing that being close to Joshua is dangerous, which keeps the tension high throughout the plot.  Addison is beautifully broken--not in a Damon Salvatore bad boy OMGLOVE way, but in the way that you can see why Greer likes him, but you just know something is horribly wrong.  And the secondary characters don't feel secondary.  Jared is a little thrown-in, but Sophie, Hannah, Wes, and obviously Joshua are fully explored and are major players in their own right.  Their have their own problems that drive the plot along and I really felt connected to them.  Except Joshua.  Whom I wanted to punch in the face.

style . 5/5
Not all writers can write teenagers.  Corrigan nails it.  Greer's voice is authentic and compelling, a mix of angst, snarky humor, and some stabs towards the profound.  She's an intelligent voice, allowing Corrigan to explore some deep issues without beating you over the head with them or making them sound too grown-up.  It's also a style that paints a picture and pulls you along.

mechanics . 5/5
Beautifully polished.  Nothing to complain about.

take home message
A creepy tale that begs to be told, with thrills enough to keep you up at night.

Note: I received this copy free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. I love the first line of the plot. This books is my kind of book and from your review I think I will love the author's style too! Happy weekend, C.J.!

    1. Thanks! It always makes me happy to know I've convinced someone to read a good book. (: Thanks, you too, and I hope you enjoy it when you read!