Dog musher, reality show alum and memoirist Blair Braverman (Dogs on the Trail; Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube) takes readers on a heart-stopping adventure in Small Game, her intimate, chilling first novel. Mara, a survival expert, signs up for Civilization, a Survivor-style reality TV show, under the assumption that "everyone was in it for themselves, and if she wasn't in charge, or paying, then she was being used." Still, she believes she can win the competition and leave her old life behind. Her costars and rivals are Kyle, a naive former Eagle Scout; Bullfrog, a gruff anarchist; beautiful, fame-hungry Ashley; and James, a math teacher. They strive to eke out a living in the remote wilderness while cameras catch every moment. Then the television crew vanishes without explanation, and Mara and the rest of the cast find themselves marooned. The game of survival turns into a life-or-death struggle, and Mara must hold their little band together if they ever want to see civilization again.
The novel's opening depicts Mara providing packaged survival experiences to primarily wealthy patrons, a shrewd contrast to the sheer enormity of the odds she will face in the wild. The author's experience as a reality TV contestant is evident in her detailed depictions of confession cams and producer manipulations. Her visceral descriptions of hunger and exposure to the elements bring an immersive level of sensory detail to the narrative. Readers who crave high-adrenaline stories with well-developed characters should love camping out with flawed, competent Mara in the unspoiled but deadly wilds. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads