The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Long Game Cover

Review of audiobook version of this YA political thriller

The Long Game (The Fixer #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages: 368 pages
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

This young adult (YA) political thriller is a sequel to The Fixer, which is also the name of this series. This is not a standalone novel. It is important to read The Fixer first. (Note that, if you have not read The Fixer, this review will, inevitably, be somewhat of a spoiler for it.) This book picks up almost immediately in story time after the conclusion of The Fixer.

This story continues to be set in the high-stakes venue of Washington, DC. Tess, a 16-year-old half-orphan, now knows who her biological mother is, 34-year-old Ivy, her current guardian, and whom Tess had previously been told all her life was her older sister. Tess also now knows who her long-deceased biological father was and, as a result, she has been taken under the wing of her paternal grandfather, known in DC as the “King Maker.” He is the ultimate political power-broker in DC, and as her former mentor, he taught Ivy everything she knows about fixing (basically, covering up) career-busting scandals for powerful politicians and/or their close family members.

Readers are informed at the end of Book 1 that there were four co-conspirators involved in the inciting incident of that story, the treasonous act of murdering the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, by the end of Book 1, only three of the four have been revealed and destroyed, and the mystery of the fourth conspirator remains to be solved in Book 2. By the end of Book 2, that vital story question is resolved completely when the mystery of the fourth conspirator is solved, and in a very surprising way.

In this book, in the midst of a horrifyingly dangerous, “no win” hostage situation caused by a ruthless band of terrorists, Tess displays yet again, as in Book 1, a willingness to courageously risk her life to rescue family, friends and acquaintances from death. In the midst of her trials by fire, her innate fixer abilities are honed and expanded and become, in many ways, as profound as those of her mother and grandfather.

This book is a real nail-biter, and fans of thrillers in general, and YA thrillers in specific, will likely find this an enjoyable read. As is the case in Book 1, and which is common for this author in many of her other YA books, happily-ever-after romance is not a feature of her writing. This author seems to be much more interested in writing adventurous, “girl power” stories. Thus, to the degree that there is any romance in this book, it is done as a gender-bending twist of a common trope within male-dominated thrillers. The author throws in a romantic complication between the heroine and a teen boy which exists solely to ratchet up the stakes of the main, thriller plot, not for the sake of romance itself. I say this because, for me, the romantic subplot came out of the blue. There had been zero romance or even subtle, un-acted-upon sexual chemistry between the heroine and her romantic interest prior to extreme danger sparking a brief flare of heat between them in the form of a single, intense kiss.

I also personally felt that the motivation of several second-tier villains and dozens of no-name, bit-part sub-villains made little sense, if one accepts that a Prime Directive of all ignoble villains is to never box themselves into a corner where their own evil hides are irretrievably at risk. But since this story moves along at a bruisingly fast clip, very likely most readers will either not notice a lack of basic, self-preservation instinct in many of the vicious villains, or not mind if they do notice this lack since it contributes mightily to a crucial element of all thrillers, that the heroine must be in constant, agonizing danger where her very existence might be snuffed out at any moment.

There are strong hints laid down by the author in this book that its well-defined, perilous story-world and its honorable and brave heroine have, together, great potential for many more adventures in possible future books in this series. However, since Book 1 was published in 2015 and Book 2 in 2016, I have a feeling that the author may have decided to abandon the series where it stands. Fortunately, none of the hints for future story ideas consist of the author leaving any loose ends from the main plot in this book in the form of a reader-enraging cliffhanger.

I experienced this book as an audiobook. The narrator, who narrates both books in this series, has a high-pitched voice that continued to be as irritating to me for this book as it was for Book 1. Especially so whenever she attempts, and fails, to adequately portray male voices. However, unlike what seems to be the vast majority of female narrators of YA fiction, she does not narrate the heroine as a perpetual whiner, which is a huge relief. Whine-narrators make YA audiobooks unbearable for me to listen to.

Parental advisory: Since this book has no underage drinking, smoking, drugs, foul language, or sex, this book could be potentially G-rated in that regard. However, because of the extensive amounts of violence, some of it graphic (which is a feature, not a bug, of thrillers), I would describe this book as PG-13 overall.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Subcharacters: 4

Romantic Subplot: 3

Thriller Plot: 3

Worldbuilding: 3

Writing: 4

Overall for the Book Itself: 3.7 rounded to 4

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