The End Games

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The End Games Book Poster Image
Zombie adventure with a twist is a cut above most.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, The End Games does not take great pains to be realistic. Its portrayal of how viruses mutate seems very unlikely at best.

Positive Messages

Even when told with the best intentions, lies have a way of spinning out of control and causing more problems than can be anticipated.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Michael Faris deeply loves his mentally fragile younger brother, Patrick, but he chooses to tell the boy a series of lies rather than admit the truth of the horrendous situation they are in. By holding onto these lies, Michael ultimately endangers himself, Patrick, and other survivors. Michael's struggle accept the reality of his lack of control makes this book stand above the run-of-the-mill zombie novel.

Violence

As might be expected for a zombie horror novel, the level of violence in The End Games is very high. The undead Bellows attack and kill human survivors, in scenes that aren't especially bloody but that are emotionally intense. But the living also wreak havoc on each other, and there are plenty of scenes featuring gunplay between various human factions.

Sex

Michael flirts with Holly, another survivor of the apocalypse, but their physical contact does not extend far past holding hands and a fairly chaste kiss.

Language

The language used in The End Games is very strong, with frequent uses of "damn," "hell," "s--t," "bastard," and "piss." "F--k" is very rarely used, with characters more often employing a less-offensive substitute like "freaking" or "frakking."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Michael gives Atipax, a fictional pharmaceutical, to his brother, Patrick, in order to keep him calm and help him sleep. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The End Games is an action-packed adventure set in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. Characters are attacked by undead "Bellows," becoming monsters themselves if bitten. In addition to the monster-killing, there is a lot of gunplay between factions of human characters, including one group led by a murderous priest. The language is strong (frequent uses of "damn," "hell," "s--t," "bastard," and "piss") but "f--k" is very rarely used. The mayhem may be too intense for younger or more sensitive readers.

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What's the story?

When the zombie apocalypse arrives, Michael tells his mentally fragile brother, Patrick, that the mayhem is only a Game, that nothing bad will happen to them if they play by the rules and obey the instructions of the mysterious Game Master. But as Michael and Patrick travel through West Virginia and meet up with other survivors trying to keep the undead \"Bellows\" at bay, the Game starts to change. The Bellows begin mutating, and those who lead the various factions of humans begin acting in odd ways. Will Michael be able to maintain the web of lies he has spun, or will the truth come crashing down on everyone he loves?

Is it any good?

There's no shortage of zombie novels these days, but THE END GAMES finds an interesting new wrinkle in the subgenre. Michael's attempt to protect his beloved brother by insisting that the end of civilization is a game that they can ultimately "win" gives the events in the novel a greater poignancy than is usually found in this kind of horror novel. Although the dialogue sometimes becomes repetitive, the action is relentless, and there are plot twists that most readers will not see coming.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about lying, even to ease someone's anxiety. What are some of the unforeseen consequences that can come from telling lies? 

  • Why are books and movies about zombies so popular? 

  • How do governments maintain authority during a disaster? How are power vacuums filled when society collapses?

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