“Everyone trusted me back then. Good old, dependable Diana. Which is why most people didn’t notice at first.”
“Your shirt is yellow.”
“Your eyes are blue.”
“You have to stop running away from your problems.”
“You’re too skinny.”
Fifteen-year-old Diana Keller accidentally begins teaching The Obvious Game to new kid Jesse on his sixteenth birthday. As their relationship deepens, Diana avoids Jesse’s past with her own secrets — which she’ll protect at any cost
This month we read Rita Arens’ debut YA novel “The Obvious Game.” This book turned out to be another selection that was well-liked by the majority of us at Teen Lit Rocks. This is a story about Diana (hooray for Dianas!), a 15-year-old girl who feels that her small-town Iowa life has spun completely out of control. She has to endure the horrors of watching her mother battle cancer. In addition, she deals with the usual pressures that teens everywhere face — dating, friendship, school, alcohol use, and sex. Thrown into the mix is the fact that Diana was a “chubby” girl who still defines herself that way. As a result, her obsession with her weight causes her to make some very self-destructive choices. For a chance to win a copy of “The Obvious Game,” enter our giveaway below the reviews.
Reader Average: A-
Keely rated the book an A
An intense read reminiscent of classic coming of age novels by Judy Blume, “The Obvious Game” is so very much more than just another YA read about an adolescent girl struggling with her concept of self, her role in her family and with the tragedies that sometimes befall us when we least expect them.
Like so many girls her age, Diana has fallen into the abyss of an eating disorder and thinks she’s successfully hiding it from her friends and family. As if her eating disorder isn’t enough for young Diana to handle her mom is also sick – life threateningly sick and Diana has an understandably hard time navigating her mom’s health and the very real possibility of losing her.
The twin tragedies of eating disorders and illness are bound tightly together with other threads of friendship and love that seem to inevitably crop up during the teenage years. Diana proves to be a resilient heroine and I feel that most girls and women will be able to identify at least in part with Diana and her story.
This book surprised me, it was thoughtfully and well written. It doesn’t gloss over the tough parts of terminal illness or eating disorders, but shows us the pain and healing in ways that feel like the stuff of real life not fiction. There isn’t the waving of a magic wand here and no cloying sweet happy ending what there is is a real feeling of love and affection and recovery won through realization and hard work. An eye opening and worthwhile read – definitely worth an A.
Cara rated the book an A
At 15, Diana is facing the prospect of losing her mother to cancer, and in her seemingly out of control life, she attempts to control the only thing she can: her weight. Overweight as a child, at first her efforts are positive but as things turn worse with her mom, it spirals out of control and Diana risks real damage to her body.
I’ve read several novels about eating disorders recently and this is the first one that I felt genuinely delved into the mind of a person battling those demons. Diana was a recognizable character, struggling with many of the challenges we all faced in high school: peer pressure, first love, parental expectations. As a former teenage girl myself, I empathized with her struggles. As a mother now, I also felt her mother’s anguish as she watched her daughter implode.
I was exactly the same age as Diana in 1990 living in a small Kansas town that could easily have been the basis for Snowden, down to the quirky homecoming rituals and (real) wrestling mania. So for those reasons alone, this book resonated with me, but the very real challenges Diana faces and the authentic way she comes to terms with them were what really won me over.
There were parts of this book that made me uncomfortable as I saw my own self-destructive teenage years re-enacted and there were parts that made me cry as I considered the heartbreak of watching your mother struggle with the devastating effects of and treatment for cancer, but hard as some parts were to read, I loved every page.
Diana rated the book an A
At the start,”The Obvious Game” appears to be about a teenage girl who is trying to cope with the fact that her mother is battling cancer. However, as the book continues you discover that Diana also struggles with her weight. This struggle turns into an eating disorder that sends her spiraling into a battle that is equally as important as her mother’s battle with cancer.
Arens has given us a novel that touches upon so many aspects of teenage life. Diana has to deal with a friend who doesn’t always act like a friend. Then she embarks on her first love and has to navigate all the aspects of this relationship on her own. She also falls under the pressure to drink and finally, most importantly, Diana is like so many teenage girls everywhere; she wants to have a beautiful body. Sadly, she still had blinders on that only allow her to see herself as fat.
I believe that “The Obvious Game” does a great job of helping us to understand eating disorders better than most novels that touch upon the topic. Parts of the book even touch upon the way treatment for eating disorders was done at that time. Most books don’t delve into that aspect and this was refreshing. Overall, this book does deserve an A rating.
Sandie rated the book an A:
I inadvertently read two books about eating disorders in a row and was floored by the differences. Rita Arens makes Diana’s struggle relatable and believable that some books I shall not name fail to do. As Diana’s family life spirals out of control, her weight loss (which is healthy at first and the result of running up and down her high school’s bleachers) becomes the only thing she feels empowered by somehow.
Arens brings Diana’s circle of friends to life, from her boyfriend Jesse, a wrestling champ with a painful past, to her best male friend Seth, who loves to play the titular game with Diana. Not only does Diana have to deal with the intricacies of falling in love for the first time but also the soul-crushing nature of having a gravely ill parent (her mother has cancer). She also has to second-guess her carefree best female friend who seems more like a source of competition than comfort.
It’s not easy to root for a protagonist with self-destructive tendencies, but Diana is someone the reader will care about no matter what the disturbing circumstances.
Melanie rated the book a C+
In “The Obvious Game,” Diana feels more and more out of control as her mom’s cancer takes a greater and greater toll on her mom, as her best friend makes more and more choices that are less than healthy and as she tries to navigate the turbulent waters of dating.
In order to try to regain some control, Diana takes control of her eating. She establishes “rules” for eating that soon provide dramatic results. Soon it is “obvious” to everyone but Diana that the control she has over her eating is causing out of control weight loss. Only Diana can take control of her eating to return to a healthy weight, as well as regaining healthy relationships with her friends and family.
I’ll admit to having moments when I’m tempted to “take control” of an area like eating to make up for the lack of control I have in other areas. Diana’s story is a reminder that not all weight loss is good weight loss.
I think this is a good story and it might be important for teens who are struggling in this area. I didn’t think it was written as well as it could be written so I give it a C+.