Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates: Book Review & Giveaway

A big thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with an electronic copy of this book and for inviting me to be a host on this tour. The publisher is also providing one copy for me to give away.

Giveaway Details: Please write a note in the comments section below if you would like to receive a free copy of Black Chalk courtesy of the publisher. I will randomly select the winner.

Black Chalk, Christopher J. Yates, thriller, fiction, Oxford UniversityFiction
U.S. Release, April 2014
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Source: TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary

Six best friends at Oxford University decide to play “a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares” (quote from Amazon), which devolves into humiliation and tragedy. 

My Thoughts

Black Chalk joins The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress as one of my favorite books I’ve read this year…and I will be including it on my Best Books of 2014 List at the end of the year (click here for last year’s list).

Hmm – how to best describe this book (other than AWESOME!)? Think The Hunger Games meets The Secret History meets The Interestings. Though various elements of the story remind me of these books (all of which I loved), the overall combination is unlike anything I’ve ever read. The way the six friends get together at the beginning of the story – and particularly the intangible “intrigue” that attracts them to each other – reminds me of The Interestings. The theme of a tight group of University friends doing some creepy, secret stuff reminds me of The Secret History. And, the Game itself reminds me of a psychological version of The Hunger Games. Add in some smart social commentary and you have a winner!

Yates masterfully times the build-up to various critical revelations at perfect points throughout the book. You find out the answer to one big question and he is immediately onto the build-up to the next one. Yates’ background working in puzzle magazines (who knew such a thing even existed?!) probably contributed to his ability to weave this complicated web of strengths, weaknesses, secrets, allegiances, and betrayals in a way that seems so seamless to the reader.

The book opens with alternating segments of the six friends meeting and forming the idea for their Game and of one of the players (who has become a recluse) writing about the Game 14 years later. This player has been alerted that it is now, after 14 years, time to play the final that seems to terrorize him. And, here you have your first mystery…who is the recluse? 

Once you figure that out, you’re thrown into the structure and details of the Game. I was hooked on this immediately and it’s part of the mystery that slowly reveals itself. What kind of psychological Game is so demented that virtually all the players end up permanently scarred? Once you start to get a good sense of the Game, you then become obsessed with the players’ downfalls. I didn’t even care who won, I just wanted to see how each player’s destiny would unfold.

On top of all this “action”, Yates doesn’t forego some deeper elements. The structure of  the Game forces you to consider human nature…how much are the players willing to risk to win? Why are they willing to backstab their best friends? How do you live with the guilt?What makes these people willing to sabotage themselves and others for the sake of a Game they essentially made up? And, is winning worth it?

“Of course winning is everything. Why else do you think we call ourselves the human race?”

And, my final thought…I’m dying to see a Black Chalk sequel! I’ve been conversing with Mr. Yates on Twitter and he has graciously agreed to write a guest post about this topic for my blog. Look forward to Christopher J. Yates’ guest post tomorrow!

Black Chalk is a wild ride and is going on my Page Turners, 2014 Summer Reading (coming in May), and Best Books of 2014 (coming in December) lists.

You May Also Like:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Interestings
by Meg Wolitzer

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

TLC Book Tours

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  1. Elizabeth Bevins wrote:

    This sounds wonderful! Thank you for the opportunity.

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  2. poofbooks wrote:

    Your review intrigued me I also share your best read thought on THE WIFE, THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS. Glad to find you through this giveaway and would like to win a copy of BLACK CHALK.

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  3. Annie Witthoefft wrote:

    Oooh – it sounds awesome … you have me hooked with the review and of course, who wouldn’t want a free copy of the book?! 🙂

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  4. Lassiter wrote:

    Your review makes it sound like a must read!! Im looking for a good page turner for a spring trip. Hope I win 🙂
    Love your site!

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  5. Sarah, thank you so very much. I loved every word of your review. It really is such a thrill to hear that my novel was so thoroughly enjoyed and devoured.

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  6. Katherine Fleck wrote:

    I am currently reading The Interesting and your review really makes me want to read this book!

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  7. anne wrote:

    Your review caught my interest. What an intriguing and captivating novel. Thanks for this giveaway.

    Posted 4.23.14 Reply
  8. Erin Shaw wrote:

    Love your reviews!! Keep up the good work.

    Posted 4.24.14 Reply
  9. Coni wrote:

    Love reading your reviews and reading you recommendations. Thank you.

    Posted 4.25.14 Reply
  10. Woohoo! I love reading reviews like this!

    Thanks so much for being a part of the tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today!

    Posted 4.28.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thank you so much! I’m flattered!

      Posted 4.29.14 Reply
  11. admin wrote:

    Congratulations to Coni – the winner of the Black Chalk giveaway!

    Thanks to everyone for participating!

    Posted 4.29.14 Reply
  12. If it is similar to THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, I HAVE to read it.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole’s Books You Loved May Edition. I am in the list as #46 and 47.

    My book entries are below. There are three giveaways on my blog as well – two until May 8 and one until May 18.

    Silver’s Reviews

    My Book Entry

    My Book Entry

    Posted 5.7.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Black Chalk is really different from The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress….but I absolutely loved both!

      Posted 5.7.14 Reply

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