Rating: 3 of 5 Converse
Nerve is a contemporary novel written by Jeanne Ryan. The story follows Vee (Venus), a teenage girl that is a “theater geek” and into eclectic fashion. She is quiet and always considered second-rate next to her best friend, Sydney (who is a rising star).
At the beginning of the book, Vee is the makeup artist for a play that Sydney is in, and unfortunately, Vee is obsessed with Matthew – a playboy who has no problem leading her on while trying to get in with Sydney (who isn’t interested). After Matthew makes out with Sydney onstage during the play, with Sydney seemingly enjoying it, Vee gets fed up and decides to make matters into her own hands. How will she become unforgettable?
By playing the renowned game of dares called Nerve.
Everyone who’s anyone is a Watcher or a Player, and all her life Sydney has wanted to be a Player. Vee decides that she has to step out of her comfort zone and play the game to become visible and earn her friends’ respects – and to show Matthew she’s just as cool as Sydney.
Vee is teamed up with hottie-boy Ian to complete a number of dares, all of which – if completed – will give them prizes tailored to their personalities and what they want most in life. For Vee, the prizes are fashion products, a new phone, and even a full ride into a fashion school. For Ian, they are a “way out,” or at least items that will help him be out on his own.
However, while the prizes are more than amazing, the dares are a lot harder and more dangerous than either Ian or Vee figured they would be. They have to do an assortment of insane things together: playing hooker in the sketchiest part of town, confronting Sydney in public about her make out session with Matthew, and even going into a purity club and asking all the kids for condoms.
While the dares begin to make Vee and Ian uncomfortable, they continue to do them for the prizes.
And soon, they find themselves in the finale with five other players.
The Nerve finale takes place in the VIP lounge in a club, and Vee and Ian have to compete against the other players as a team in hopes of beating them and winning the grand prize. The rules are simple – if any player in the room tries to forfeit the dare, every single one of them loses their prizes. The other players – Ty, Daniella, Jen, Micki, and Samuel – make it understood that that isn’t an option.
The dares start off simple – introducing themselves, dancing, drinking. They are live and sometimes the Nerve hosts will allow the Watchers to speak to the Players in the lounge. But as the night progresses, the dares get more complicated, more dangerous, more cruel. They have to phone another player’s family members and tell them that their kid was in a freak car accident before abruptly hanging up. They have to go into separate rooms for fifteen minutes and relive their worst fears and memories, their deepest darkest secrets. They have to publicly have sex in hopes of getting a good score (though Vee, Samuel, and Ian avoid having to do this dare thanks to Ty and Daniella and Micki and Jen).
Vee begins to realize that these dares are more real than she thought they were when she had been a Watcher. She had always figured that a lot of this stuff was dressed up on screen to seem more dangerous than it actually was. But the final dare at the end of the night confirms her suspicions.
The players are each to take a loaded gun from a cabinet in the lounge and point it at the player they deem the “victim.”
This entire time, Nerve has not been the game that it seemed, and someone could very well lose their life because of it.
So I will be completely honest – I binged this book in one sitting. The concept behind this book is extremely intriguing to me, which is why it held me on the edge of my seat. I think Ryan does an excellent job portraying the way celebrities are stalked or go off the deep end from fame. She also does a good job of portraying how fear, negative influences/expectations, and peer pressure can really mess with your brain. She also shows how far someone would go to win what they want – out of fear, peer pressure, or just for the feeling of being victorious, and how the Internet and people are not always what they seem. All of these can be hard topics to touch on, and I feel that Ryan did it really well.
That being said, I still rated this book a 3 of 5. There are multiple reasons why this book frustrated and disturbed me. First, Vee is hard to like as a character. You’re supposed to care for her a bunch since she’s the main character in the story, but I still had trouble connecting with her. Half the time she acted morally sound, but then she allowed peer pressure, jealousy, and greed to affect her in really negative ways. I hated this because while there is a way to pull it off as just acting human, Vee constantly knew that what she was doing was wrong, yet she did it anyway.
The second, and probably biggest, pet peeve I had with this book is that Ryan inserted sexual nonsense into this book like Hollywood does to movies just to get more people to go see them. Honestly, the amount of sexuality in this book was disturbing. Nearly every single dare involved something sensual or sexual, and there wasn’t a chapter that went by that didn’t have at least one sexual reference in it. All of it was unnecessary and added just for the sake of adding it. Ryan could have done a better job by maybe including only one or two dares that involved sensual or sexual themes and then branching off to more realistic ones. I’m afraid that all of the sexual dares in this book were highly unrealistic, and it really bothered me that the author felt the need to try to keep inserting as much of it as she could in her book.
Now that I’ve finished my book review, I would like to mention that after reading it, I immediately went and watched the movie. I was curious – and honestly, a bit afraid – to see if it followed the structure and dares of the book. I am more than happy to say that the movie was nothing like the book. It still had Ian and Vee, Nerve was still played, and there were a ton of dares. However, the movie had 98% less sexuality than in the book, making it easier to swallow. I am also extremely impressed with the different direction the movie took. It took what I liked about Ryan’s core themes and transferred them into a more realistic idea, and definitely more realistic dares.
The Nerve Movie, in my opinion, earns 4 of 5 stars.
If you have read or watched Nerve, what were your thoughts on it? Feel free to comment below!