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I’m Not Saying it’s Aliens

But it’s definitely aliens in the first book in James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton's new Endgame series, The Calling.

I’m Not Saying it’s Aliens

BOOK REPORT for The Calling (Endgame #1) by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Cover Story: Misleading Minimalism
BFF Charm: A Few Maybes, Many Natalie Imbruglias and a Couple of Definite Hell Nos
Swoonworthy Scale: 7/3
Talky Talk: Too Many Cooks
Bonus Factors: Ancient Aliens, Diversity
Anti-Bonus Factor: Hype Vehicle
Relationship Status: Considering a Second Date

Cover Story: Misleading Minimalism

This cover, although striking in its simplicity, is one of those that has far too much going on. There’s the oroborus-like symbol with the snakes and the compass-looking circle. Then there’s the text. The title of the book isn’t, as one might think, Endgame; Endgame is the name of the series. The Calling is the name of the book. Also, James Frey isn’t the only author—if you look closely, you’ll see another name underneath his. (Perhaps it’s more important to pay attention to the smaller lines on this cover?)

The Magpie in me does enjoy the metallic gold background, however.

The Deal:

When a series of 12 meteorites hit the Earth, causing all sorts of damage and destruction, most people of the world think it was nothing but an unfortunate natural occurrence. Twelve kids ranging in age from a little over 13 to nearly 20, and the people who trained them, know differently, however. They know that the meteorites are harbingers of the fact that Endgame has begun, and they—the Players—must now fight each other for their lives and the lives of their “lines,” 12 groups of people whose lineage date back to the earliest humans. Humans who, unlike most modern theories suggest, were planted on Earth by mysterious, ancient beings not of this planet.

BFF Charm: A Few Maybes, Many Natalie Imbruglias and a Couple of Definite Hell Nos

From a young age, the Players have been trained to be ruthless, intelligent, individuals. Although some make alliances, they’re all out to win—no holds barred. Some are more “normal” than others, some are psychopaths. (Note: I’m not going to go into specifics on all 12 players here, only a few that stood out to me, because A. talking about all 12 Players would make for a really long Book Report and B. I don’t want to spoil everything about the book.)

Sarah Alopay is a pretty normal American girl, on the outside. She cares a lot about the people she’s playing to save, and isn’t afraid to make alliances that might benefit her in the end, even when one said alliance leads her into dangers (i.e., romantic) territory. Out of all of the Players, she’s definitely the most “normal” … but still, scary.

Jago Tlaloc’s parents are local criminal enforcers in his town, but they’re not entirely bad people. As their son, Jago’s experienced prosperity and power. And although Jago relishes these traits, he, too, isn’t all bad, and knows how to show a softer side.

Chiyoko Takeda has been raised to value life, and only kills when it’s absolutely necessary. She’s also, basically, a ninja, and possibly knows more about Endgame than any of the other Players. She’s mute, and tiny, but scary as all get out.

An Liu is the kind of guy that Criminal Minds would base an episode around. He’s a crazy good hacker, and can also whip up a bomb MacGyver-style (but without the good intentions). Unlike some of the other Players, who were trained hard, but without violence, An’s training was brutal and filled with injuries, which led him to develop ticks and a stutter. It’s a shame what happened to him, but dude is SERIOUSLY creepy and not at all afraid to maim as many people as possible while he plays.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7/3

You might think that a story filled with characters who will eventually have to kill each other would shy away from the swoon, but there are a couple of couplings that occur. One has promise, the other serious ick factor.

Talky Talk: Too Many Cooks

The Calling is broken up into chapters that follow the Players as they play. This could get very confusing, if it wasn’t for the third-person narration. Still, it’s a little hard to follow so many main characters at times, particularly when their paths intersect, mingle, and then split again. They all kind of meld into each other by the end of the book.

Also, on a literal level, the book is hard to read. There are no indentations, no spacing between paragraphs, and weird line breaks throughout. I didn’t read an ARC, either, so I know this was a conscious choice. I’m not a fan.

Bonus Factor: Ancient Aliens

The beings behind Endgame are ancient … and alien. (I assume.) Many of the places the Players travel to or are mentioned in the story are mysterious locales such as Stonehenge, Göbekli Tepe, the Pyramids at Giza, etc. These are all locales that pop up in discussions of aliens and the wacky conspiracy theories writings of Ancient Astronaut Theorists*.

*I would love to have this title. But I’d likely have to be a wee bit crazier than I am already to obtain it.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

The Players hail from all over the world, and therefore are a variety of ethnicities and come from many cultures. It was interesting to get glimpses into each of their very different lives.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Hype Vehicle

I didn’t investigate fully, but there’s apparently a real-life, tie-in game connected to the Endgame series that could net someone $500,000. Interspersed through the book are images, notes, locations, quotations and more that lead to a series of URLs in the back of the book. These URLs lead to various clues (for the real-life players) on the Internet. (If you’re interested, you can get more info about it at www.thisisendgame.com, but please note that FYA is not promoting nor endorsing this promotion.)

Casting Call:

Devery Jacobs as Sarah

Diego Boneta as Jago

Yoshitaka Yuriko as Chiyoko

Osric Chau as An

Relationship Status: Considering a Second Date

Although I was hesitant about getting together, Book—*cough*JamesFrey*cough*—I’m pretty intrigued by your story. You totally appeal to the side of me that’s fascinated by alien stories and conspiracy theories. I’m not wholly on board with the weird tie-in game, however; that kind of promotion has always left me a bit cold. I’d consider a second date, but I’m bringing my tinfoil hat next time, just to be safe.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Calling is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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