A Game of Fox & Squirrels: A moving allegory

A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese

A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews11-year-old Samantha and her big sister have just arrived at their Aunt Vicky’s farm in Oregon. Samantha is not happy that the girls have been taken away from their parents and she wants to go home, even though her dad sometimes has a pretty bad temper. Aunt Vicky and her wife are clearly not prepared to take the girls in, but they do their best to make the sisters feel at home.

Aunt Vicky gives Samantha a game called The Game of Fox & Squirrels and one night, when Samantha is playing with it, the fox from the game visits her room. He’s charming and offers to give Samantha anything she wants if she can find the Golden Acorn. Samantha, who just wants to be back with her family in Los Angeles, is nervous about the challenge, but decides it’s the only way to get out of her current situation.

As Samantha attempts to complete her quest, various dangers arise and her interactions with the fox and his henchmen (henchanimals?) become more sinister. Though fearful, Samantha takes inspiration from the fantasy novels she loves. She knows that heroes like Bilbo Baggins were afraid while on their quests – being afraid and doing it anyway is what made them courageous.

Jenn Reese

Jenn Reese

 

Samantha, a clever, extremely imaginative, shy, and sensitive girl, is endearing. She hates the spotlight and is content to let her big sister have it. She’s easy to relate to, especially for readers who share her love of fantasy novels. As we get to know Samantha, it begins to become clear that she suffers from trauma and, perhaps, an anxiety disorder. Jenn Reese increases the tension and mystery by doling out this information gradually.

Eventually, it also becomes clear that A Game of Fox & Squirrels, which is filled with symbolism, is an allegory. Reese deals with difficult issues in a sensitive manner. This is a moving, even distressing, story that’s beautifully written. The audio version I listened to is also wonderful. It’s narrated by Sarah Franco and published by Macmillan Young Listeners. A Game of Fox & Squirrels is a finalist for the Nebula (Andre Norton) Award for best Young Adult Fiction. It is a worthy competitor.

Published in 2020. After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they’ve never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father’s anger. When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called “A Game of Fox & Squirrels,” Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.  But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn’t prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she’d ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she’ll lose far more than just a game

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. This sounds lovely!

    And I think “henchanimals” is correct here.

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