Book Review: It’s All Fun and Games


Allison Duggan is a typical 15-year-old student at Freeport Central High School. Her BFF, TJ Keller, is a true super geek. Before a long weekend of LARPing (live action role playing), TJ invites Allison to come along for what’s sure to be an epic event. Allison is none too keen on the idea of dressing up in a wizard costume and sleeping out in the woods, but when she learns that Simon, the tall, handsome, buff football player hunk that all the school girls have a crush on (including Allison), will be attending what she jokingly refers to as a “geek fest,” she reluctantly agrees to tag along.

It’s harmless nerd fun, so what could possibly go wrong, right? As it turns out, a whole lot.

Allie and TJ eventually arrive at the LARP location and meet up with their four other friends who will be their party members for the adventure. TJ’s the wizard and group leader. Chuck’s the master thief. Jimmy’s the Conan-meets-Aragorn tank/berserker/swordsman. Stu’s the ranger-like scout, outdoorsman, and bow and arrow specialist. And Simon goes full makeup in the role of some type of nonhuman race that’s never fully explained. As the newbie of the team, Allie is given the healer class, which means as the story unfolds her talents prove more important than she ever could have imagined. The characters are all likeable and very well-written.

The party of merry make-believers set out on their LARP quest, venturing East to stop the Westward conquest of a powerful wizard. After an Obligatory Thug Attack early on, something about the world seems different as they stop by a settlement that appears way more developed and populated than a LARP NPC town should, and take on what they believe is a side quest to track down a group of bandits harassing the townsfolk. With a single, deadly arrow shot, their fun weekend of geeking out becomes a matter of life and death as the world of their LARP adventure instantly switches from fantasy to reality.

It’s a fascinating premise that makes for a fun fantasy romp of swords and sorcery as the former high school students literally become their fictional roles, inheriting their full range of skills and backstories. Their fake weapons, made of PVC pipe wrapped in foam padding and duct tape, become actual daggers, swords, maces, and bows with real arrows. TJ’s pouch of beanbags used to simulate spells become real magic missiles and fireballs. Allie’s healing spells become a natural gift she can use to cure wounds and broken bones.

On a deeper level, I did feel like the story missed an opportunity to truly blur the lines between the real world and the LARP world. When the transformation occurs, all of the characters immediately take on the traits and personalities of their created heroes. They briefly ponder their predicament, but for high schoolers they sure do cope with death–with gruesomely smashing in a brigand’s skull or slashing kobolds limb from limb–with a surprising lack of emotional turmoil or trauma. They never really try to figure out how the world changed or find a way to get back to their real human lives. They just accept it without much impact and move on through what ultimately turns into a fairly conventional fantasy storyline. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just seems like there was an opportunity to maybe push the idea further than it initially lets on.

It’s All Fun and Games is the first in what is planned to be an ongoing series of young adult fantasy novels, and after this promising start I’m very eager to see where Allie’s adventure goes from here–and if author Dave Barrett more deeply explores the crossover between the LARP and real worlds and how it affects the characters moving forward. Parts of the story feel a bit too convenient, but overall this is a fun, engaging, quick-reading fantasy tale that will woo adult readers in with its nerdy nostalgia and also capture the imaginations of a whole new audience of young high fantasy geeks.

Buy From:, Barnes & Noble, or Inkshares for $9.99 in paperback or $5.99 in ebook.

Disclosure: A review copy of It’s All Fun and Games was provided to by Inkshares.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!