2.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

All it takes is one spark to start a blaze.

At Foxham Prep, a posh private school for the children of DC’s elite, a single rumor has the power to ruin a life.

Nobody knows that better than Bryn. She used to have it all—the perfect boyfriend, a bright future in politics, and even popularity, thanks to her best friend, cheer captain Cora. Then one mistake sparked a scandal that burned it all to the ground.

Now it’s the start of a new school year and the spotlight has shifted: It’s geeky Georgie, newly hot after a summer makeover, whose name is on everyone’s lips. When a rumor ignites, Georgie rockets up the school’s social hierarchy, pitting her and Cora against each other. It grants her Foxham stardom . . . but it also makes her a target.

As the rumors grow and morph, blazing like wildfire through the school’s social media, all three girls’ lives begin to unravel. But one person close to the drama has the power to stop the gossip in its tracks. The question is—do they even want to?

From Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, authors of the Tiny Pretty Things duology (now a Netflix series), comes the edge-of-your-seat social thriller everyone will be talking about.

**The Rumor Game comes out March 1, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

CW: bullying/cyber bullying, sexual abuse, assault, weight loss, body image, fat phobia, racism

How can a lie be that big?

Isn’t that a question, hmm? If I wanted to summarize what this book was about in one line, it’d be this. Do we think rumors, especially the ones not rooted in the truth, can really lead into something far bigger?

The simple answer: yes. And authors Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra attempt to show just how through this story.

The Rumor Game was something I really wanted to love. But the subject matter, even with the warnings, makes it hard. It’s not a book meant to induce warm fuzzy feelings but it was hard to swallow at times.

The story revolves around 3 girls. Bryn has been bullied since summer, falling from grace with everyone, including her best friend, due to a horrible incident she regrets. Cora is the it girl, but with new rumors surrounding her and her boyfriend, even her once-untouchable relationship is in everyone’s mouths. And not all the words were nice. Georgie wants to reinvent herself now that she lost weight but with newfound popularity comes unwanted attention and comments.

Each girl’s story revolved around rumors and the whole school population budding into their affairs. Clearly the story means to show how detrimental this can be on anyone’s mental health. How one tiny rumor can just snowball into something that cannot be undone, with very real life consequences damaging someone’s life.

I just couldn’t like any of the girls. Each made dumb decisions. And while I empathize with each of their situations, it doesn’t excuse the hurt they themselves inflicted on one another and others, or even simply enabling bad behavior and gossip. No one was innocent really in this book. It made it hard to digest at times.

I will make one quick side note that I did enjoy the different cultures portrayed here among the children of the elite DC crowd. I loved that Georgie is Punjabi and we get to learn more about her culture and familial expectations that come with it. Cora is Black and I’m glad she is for more representation sake, especially among important crowds like those attending Foxham Prep. While not everyone’s ethnicities played as big of a role in the story, I do appreciate little things like these.

Overall, I can and will applaud the authors for writing this book because it does show what rumors can do. We need that, especially in this day and age with no “off” button from social media harassment and negativity.

While I’m not triggered by these things particularly, I will say it affected me even still. For those who do need to give heed to these warnings, I would definitely suggest steering clear. Even if you’re like me, maybe come into this with a clear understanding of what the story will bring.

Overall Recommendation:

The Rumor Game brings a good message on the detriments of rumors, especially in a high school setting where the truth is usually adjacent to what is being spread as gospel. But the subject matter is dark and intense, making it hard for me to feel anything but a coiling mass of sadness about everything. While the 3 protagonists could be empathized with, none were innocent in their actions or non-actions. I couldn’t root for anybody, and the ending was what you expected. Which is barely enough for the experience it took to get there. This book is most definitely not for everyone. Please read at your own caution.

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