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Head Games    by Mariah Fredericks order for
Head Games
by Mariah Fredericks
Order:  USA  Can
Pulse, 2006 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Fifteen-year-old Judith finds game playing much more interesting than real life, her life anyway. She goes to a private school for gifted students where she feels invisible. She eats alone, is ignored by her former best friend, and is overlooked by the rest of her classmates. At home, as an online game player, fantasy rules. Judith is Terryn in the online universe of Hell's Mouth, where 'you could tell any story you wanted, be anyone you wanted.'

When the games gets deadly, Terryn is endangered by a player named Irgan. Just before he slashes her, Irgan abruptly stops and lets her live. The only thing the game players know about each other is their online names. They could be male or female, live anywhere - in another state, even another country - so why does Judith feel that Irgan's decision is personal rather than part of the game? When the webmaster complains that Irgan's decision to leave Terryn alive is illogical, both Irgan and Terryn quit the game.

Judith's mother doesn’t know about Hell's Mouth. Judith doesn't tell her. Since her divorced mom worries about everything, Judith is sure that knowing her daughter is playing a slasher game with strangers would freak her out even more.

When Judith becomes friends with her neighbor across the hall, her mother's disappointment is obvious. The Heitmans have lived on their floor since she and Jonathan were children. He used to be a screaming little kid with ADD and an unstable family. Now he is possibly a druggie, but Judith finds she can talk to him. They share an interest in game playing. Together they begin a new fantasy game that is not online.

Smooth writing, realistic dialogue and a strong voice makes Head Games worth reading in spite of the loose ends left hanging by the subplots of Judith's supporting characters.

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