Review: It’s Only a Game by Kelsey Yu

It's Only a Game by Kelsea Yu

It’s Only a Game
Kelsey Yu
Bloomsbury YA
Published July 9, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About It’s Only a Game

In this twisty, fast-paced YA thriller, a dangerous game becomes all too real when Marina and her friends are framed for murder.

When Marina Chan ran from her old life, she brought nothing with her-not even her real name. Now she lives in fear of her past being discovered. But when her online gaming team is offered a tour of their favorite game company, Marina can’t resist accepting, even though she knows it might put her fake identity at risk.

Then the creator of the game is murdered during their tour. Whoever killed him plans to frame Marina and her friends for the murder unless they win four rounds of a dangerous game. A game that requires them to lie, trespass, and steal. A game that could destroy everything Marina’s worked so hard to build…. A game that she might not survive.

It's Only a Game on Goodreads

My Review

The really interesting part of this book is that it mashes up what is essentially a video game contest with a murder mystery. Marina carries secrets that she worries could put her friends and teammates in danger, but she longs to have uncomplicated connections with people and values the closeness in those relationships.

The chapters alternate between two different timelines. In the present, Marina and her team attempt to complete challenging levels of a video game to meet the demands of an unidentified person who threatens to harm the people each teammate loves. The other timeline begins ten years earlier and shows glimpses of Marina’s past, where she lives with her mom. She tries to piece together why the two live such an isolated life.

The tension spikes as the two timelines intersect, and pieces of the mystery come together. The relationships between the characters impact the story in some interesting ways, and I found it easy to root for all of them.

While this isn’t my favorite style of book, I did enjoy reading it. It felt like a quick read with its short chapters, and I particularly liked the mash-up of video game conquests and murder mystery elements. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done before, and it worked really well here.

Readers who enjoy books by Karen McManus or liked How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao should check this one out.

It's Only a Game on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Marina is Chinese American and romantically interested in a girl. One of her friends is transgender. Another friend is Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two girls.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Marina witnesses a shooting. Someone threatens Marina and her friends, effectively holding them hostage until they complete a series of tasks. A woman harms child repeatedly.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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