“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.
A sad, but lovely story of one teen girls struggles with severe body issues, eating disorders, the serious illness of her mother and getting through high school, The Obvious Game was both an excellent and heartbreaking read.
Arens filled the book with insightful and poignant observations about the seemingly personal struggle that everyone goes through in the so called "best years" of our lives. IE: the hell that is 14-17 years of age.
I ignored Seth's tone. "Of course I like him. He's smart and funny and hot. I can't figure out why he likes me.""I keep telling you, Diana. There are tons of crazies out there. You bag on yourself too much."I rolled my eyes. "It's hard not to when you're best friends with Amanda."Seth paused. "Amanda's scary. She must keep a box of headless baby dolls in her closet."I punched him. "But she's better at getting guys.""There's a difference between being better at it and being better, Diana."
Although I found her teen boys to be far too self aware and insightful to be nearly as realistic as her females, I also understood that the story worked better if they were. The guys I grew up with were really not much better than goldfish, all flash but completely unaware of what was going on around them. That being said, I love the idea that Seth both sees so much more to Diana and yet falls into his own nightmarish teen trap.
His control was impressed me. Imagine just deciding you weren't mad- no shoulder prickles, no stomach clenches, no tight chest trying to breathe while everyone looked at you. No going home and hating yourself, hating your body, hating, hating, hating, until you wondered why anyone ever spoke to you at all.
What most impressed me about Arens' writing was how well she illustrated both the feelings that are so hard to describe at that age, and the nuanced psyche that is at the forefront of all self abusive behaviours. As someone who has never experienced an eating disorder she made me 100% understand how Diana fell into the trap she did.
"Imagine I'm your mother. Every ten minutes I interrupt you from whatever you are doing and tell you to clean your room. You clean it. It's clean. It's spotless. You could serve the Queen Mother off your floor. Ten minutes later, I walk back in and tell you to clean it again.
"'It's clean,' you say. "I just cleaned it.' 'Clean it again,' I say. 'You missed a spot.' So you get down on your hands and knees and scrub the floor with your toothbrush. Ten minutes later, I walk back in and tell you to clean it again. This repeats, over and over, until the room is so clean it's starting to come apart at the seams with the scrubbing, but still I continue to walk in and tell you to clean it. You show me the floorboards coming up. I don't care. I tell you to clean it again.
"After a while, the floorboards do come up, and underneath them, you imagine you see dirt. You know I'm coing back to tell you to clean it again, so you begin to scrub. You scrub and scrub. And I tell you to do it again. You fall asleep in the middle of the floor. First thing in the morning, you wake up and examine every inch of the room. It is spotless. I walk into your room before you've even gotten up. And I tell you to clean it again."
I took a deep breath. "That's what it's like inside my head."
I have always been waif-ishly small, but I suddenly put on a lot of weight in a short period (oh the glories of steroids people, just hope you never have to take them!), so I can relate to how the tiniest neuroses can blow up out of control if they aren't caught early on. I briefly thought I would try calorie counting in my attempt to loose weight, and was astounded by how quickly I became completely neurotic about everything I put in my mouth. A little healthy granola bar has HOW MANY CALORIES??! Forget it, I'm not really hungry. But even if I hadn't had that experience, Arens' writing is provocative enough that I would have understood entirely, how things crumbled for Diana.
In the end I was the most happy with the fact there were no easy solutions for Diana, she was going to have to be aware and work hard not to fall into the same traps for the rest of her life. And yet there was a happy ending. It was incredibly cathartic.
A lovely book that I would hope plenty of teens have a chance to read. It's good to know you're not alone in your self doubt, self hate or unhappiness, but it's even better to be reminded that it gets better.
The Obvious Game, by Rita Arens
Published by Inkspell Publishing, February 7th, 2013