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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
The Souvenir Game is a young adult coming-of-age thriller written by Christopher Renna. Sixteen-year-old Spencer Newhouse spends his time hanging out with the Wyatt Five, a group of five upper-class and somewhat privileged kids who are inseparable from each other. While playing the Souvenir Game, in which the player has to steal a souvenir from a house located in a low-income neighborhood, Spencer comes across an eleven-year-old boy named Dalton. Appalled at seeing Dalton's living conditions, Spencer soon forms a bond with the kid through their mutual love of books. But when Dalton's mother, Stacey, overdoses on drugs, Spencer and Dalton find themselves kidnapped by drug dealers to whom Stacey owed money. Spencer must now find a way to freedom before the criminals sell him and Dalton to sexual slavery.
Author Christopher Renna tells a heartwarming tale of friendship against all odds in this engaging coming-of-age thriller. The author takes a while to set up the characters and the plot, but from the midway point onward, the pacing accelerates. Spencer and Dalton's relationship forms the bedrock of the narrative. Spencer's evolution from a naive and self-absorbed teenager to someone who risks his life for another person made for a captivating character arc. Although the book touches upon some darker themes, it is primarily a coming-of-age story about growing up and facing the world outside your comfort zone. The last quarter of the novel moves at a breakneck speed, and you will find yourself on the edge of your seat. The Souvenir Game will appeal to readers who enjoy young adult dramas with thriller elements.