BOOK & BLOG
June 2, 2008
Book of the Week: WICKED GAME by Jeri Smith-Ready
Just when I think the vampire genre must be exhausted, just when I think if I read another clone I’ll quit writing vampires myself, I read a book that refreshed my flagging interest. Jeri Smith-Ready’s WICKED GAME was consistently surprising and original.
Her protagonist, Ciara Griffin, is as far from heroic as a protagonist can get and still be likeable. Ciara’s parents are in jail. They raised her to be a grifter like themselves; disgustingly, her family exploited others by presenting themselves as “faith healers.” Ciara’s trying to reform, but it’s an uphill battle against her most basic impulse; to grab the money and run.
With what seems to her like an amazing stroke of luck, Ciara’s hired by a floundering radio station. It’s in danger of being taken over by a soulless conglomerate (is there any other kind, at least in literature?) and its reclusive disc jockeys need saving in the worst way.
Each of the disc jockeys specializes in a particular music era, and in fact they dress in the style of that era and use the slang of that era, too. There’s a very good reason for that; each one died in that era. They’re all vampires. Initially skeptical, Ciara becomes a believer after a disastrous sexual encounter with the grunge dj, Shane McAllister.
Ciara’s marketing ploy to raise advertising revenues for the station includes renaming it WVMP, outing all the dj’s, and hawking T shirts flaunting the station’s true nature. Not too surprisingly, this doesn’t agree with some of the other vampires in the area. Meanwhile, despite the stitches in her thigh, Ciara can’t help thinking Shane is mighty fine.
WICKED GAME is mighty fine, too, and I highly recommend it.
It’s summer softball season. What does that mean? It means sweat, ballpark food, folding chairs, those easy-to-erect awnings you can get at Wal-Mart, and lots of laundry. It means using lots of very expensive gas, putting the dogs in the kennel many weekends in a row, and missing church. It means boring other people with long stories of some umpire’s misdoings or our daughter’s prowess. This has been summer for us for the past four years, since our daughter started playing tournament ball, or travelling ball, or whatever you want to call it.
What have I learned in watching hour after hour of team sports in extremely hot weather? Not too much that’s original, that’s for sure.
I’ve learned that parents and umpires can be just as childish (if not more) than the 16 and 17-year-olds I’m there to watch. I’ve learned that parents gossip just as much as the girls, and that each and every parent believes his/her daughter is the pivotal player on the team . . . at least on that daughter’s good days.
I’ve learned that good softball players are fairly thick on the ground, but that great softball players are rare and valued like rubies. Particularly pitchers; a really great, consistent, pitcher is the prima donna of the fastpitch softball world. Most coaches will put up with a lot of prima donna behavior to enroll such a pitcher.
I’ve learned a lot about the grace and value of teamwork, at which I myself don’t excel. I’ve learned a lot about being the best you can be, going the extra mile, making the extra effort, giving 110%, and every other sports cliché you can remember. They’re all true, and I see them in practice every single weekend, as young women throw themselves to the hard ground to catch a ball, retreat to safety on a base in an undignified crab scuttle, strain every muscle in their arms in a great throw to home plate, or rise to their feet covered in dust and bruises after a slide.
I also see girls who refuse to do this. Not too often, because you don’t join a tournament team unless you love the sport; but sometimes, you see the girl who’s figured out that she doesn’t want to ruin her rotator cuff or break a bone or damage her knees playing a game. These are the girls who are probably playing their last season of fastpitch. I wish them well, since they’ve figured something out that works for them, and I envy their parents, who get to stay home in the air conditioning.
To my surprise, I don’t envy them too much. Because it’s summer . . . and that’s our daughter, out there in the blazing sun, risking everything to get that ball.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris