Title: The Voting Game
Author: Peter Gulgowski
Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
In the year 2084, Every Interaction Counts.
Darrius Young’s sixteenth birthday brings a harsh reality: It’s time to join the Voting Game. Playing is mandatory and each day may be his last.
In this bleak future’s society, citizens rate their interactions with one another. Highest scorers are members of an elite upper class. An average score means you can keep playing.
Fall below average? You are taken and killed by the government entity known only as The Bureau. Darrius has prepared his whole life for this challenge, knowing the reality he will soon face — especially after the death of his mother to the game.
But despite preparation, he’s losing — and not just the Game. Suddenly the people he loves are getting brutally downvoted and taken by the Bureau. It’s soon clear there’s a target on his back, drawn there by the Bureau itself. And Darrius has no idea why.
In a frantic race against time against a society that’s already sentenced him to death, can Darrius save himself and those around him before it’s too late?
I received a free copy of The Voting Game for participating in The Voting Game PH blog tour hosted by Shealea at That Bookshelf Bitch. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
When Shealea tagged me on her tweet about this blog tour, I was intrigued. First of all, I am a first-class certified sci-fi ho. So anytime a new sci-fi title catches my attention, I snap it up quick as I can. What sealed the deal for me though was when someone said that the main character was gay and black. LGBTQIA and POC representation in a sci-fi book with a pretty intriguing premise? Sign me the hell up!
The year is 2084. A clicker-based system where people rate their interactions on a scale of 1 to 5 has been implemented to curb negative elements of society. It’s supposed to be a great equalizer, but instead it’s just a way for the elites to maintain a caste system that ensures the middle class is kept in place, and that the lower classes are systematically eradicated. Born into this dystopia is Darrius Young, whose father is hiding secrets – both his own and those of Darrius’s dead mother – with dangerous consequences, not just for Darrius, but those he cares about. As Darrius struggles to find out what exactly his parents have to do with Sylvan Wright, creator of the Voting Game, he finds himself on the run from dangerous Bureau operatives, desperately searching for answers before he’s taken out once and for all.
I loved Darrius. There’s no two ways about it. As interesting as the premise of the book was, I firmly believe that it would not have worked without the character of Darrius Young, and how Peter Gulgowski wrote him. I’m very cautious with dystopian young adult fiction because sometimes I feel like authors have forgotten what it’s like to be young, judging by the extremely unrealistic behavior of their teenage protagonists. I absolutely did not feel that way with Darrius. He has that streak of nobility so typical of heroes of dystopian YA, but he’s also brash, impatient, and naive. I also liked how he responds with determination tinged with uncertainty when finally made to go off the grid without his father, who has sheltered him from the Voting Game for as long as he could. He acts like how you’d expect a real, actual teenager would when told to go off on a dangerous world-changing adventure. I also love that Peter Gulgowski took the time to flesh out Darrius’s relationship with his father and his sister Jada.
Speaking of Jada – damn, I love her. She loves her brother, but she’s not afraid to call him out on his shit either. She is smart, funny, a painter, a loving sister, tough when she needs to be, and just generally such a well-rounded, well-written character!
I could be wrong (because the second book isn’t out yet lmao) but I also liked how Darrius being black and gay isn’t integral to the plot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fiction that explores being LGBTQIA or being a person of color in a certain situation where being queer or a person of color changes circumstances for you. But it meant a lot for me that Darrius being gay and black wasn’t part of the story; it’s just another facet of his character, rather like height or weight. White and straight are not the default, and it’s high time that fiction reflected that. This book delivered on that count.
Plot-wise, this kind of reminds me of the episode Nosedive from the show Black Mirror, although the only similarity really is the concept of rating other people and the consequences of falling below a certain threshold. The consequences are different, though: in Nosedive, you are essentially shunted away from society; in The Voting Game, you’re outright taken and killed. I imagine though that being a book (and eventually a series), The Voting Game will be able to hash out the implications and repercussions of such a society better than the episode of a TV show can.
I practically devoured this book mostly because I could really relate to the parallels to modern-day class struggles. The Voting Game is supposed to be an equalizer, where supposedly you’re supposed to rate every interaction you have, but in reality, everyone stays out of the way of the elite upper class and just helps each other muddle along, while also avoiding the ‘undesirables’ that could drag them down. The system is gamed so that the rich keep getting richer, and the poor just get poorer. If that isn’t a metaphor for the 1% pitting the middle class against the poor in an effort to maintain their own status and power, I’ll eat my blog.
I’m docking a star because of some turns of phrases I didn’t care for and some errors in punctuation and grammar, but other than that, The Voting Game is a solid addition to the world of sci-fi YA and I would highly recommend reading it!
Shoutout to the #TheVotingGamePH support group on Twitter!
We made a Twitter chat to scream at each other about the book’s ending, since we didn’t want to spoil anyone in our tweets or reviews. And honestly? Thank God for it. I was unprepared for the pain, and let that be a warning to you all.
Want to check out this book? You’re in luck. It’s giveaway time!
Multiple winners will be drawn. 1 winner will receive a paperback copy of The Voting Game (US residents only), and 5 winners will receive a digital copy of the book (international residents). Click here to enter!
And don’t you worry if you don’t win the giveaway. You can get a copy on Amazon right here!
Get to know the author, Peter Gulgowski!
Peter Gulgowski was born and raised in a suburb in Wisconsin. He began writing at the age of fourteen during a study hall session in which he had already finished his homework. Several years later, his debut novel, The Government, would become published. Mr. Gulgowski remains a student, with hopes of becoming a full-time writer.
Inspired by authors such as J.K. Rowling, John Green, Veronica Roth, and so many others, Gulgowski hopes one day to join their ranks in inspiring the next generation of storytellers.
His latest novel, ‘The Voting Game’ became the #1 New Release in Teen & Young Adult LGBT Issues Fiction and is his fourth bestselling book. Currently, he is working on several new novels to be released later in 2018.
Still not convinced? Read the other reviews on #TheVotingGamePH blog tour!
09 April (Monday)
- The Voting Game blog tour launch
- Review from Not Just Fiction
- Review and feature post from The Hufflepuff Nerdette
- Review from The Youngvamp’s Haven
10 April (Tuesday)
11 April (Wednesday)
12 April (Thursday)
- Review from The Little Miss Bookworm
- Review from Wanders Between Pages
- Review from Rambling of a Book Nerd
13 April (Friday)
- Review and feature post from The Backwards Bookshelf
- Review from Legenbooksdary
- Review from BookMyHart
14 April (Saturday)
- Author interview with Peter Gulgowski
And that’s it for my stop on #TheVotingGamePH tour! Till next time!