Nerve by Jeanne Ryan Is Underwhelming, but Nevertheless Thrilling
I will fully admit to the fact that I read Nerve mostly because I watched the trailer for the movie and honestly just didn't want to wait for it to come out (which it did, yesterday). It was a very quick read that I finished in two sittings, and it's fast-paced as well. One of my friends recommended it to me and told me that it was one of her favorite books, and though I don't love it quite as much as she does, I can see myself getting more fully into it if I had read this when I was younger.
The main plot of the book is, of course, NERVE, the game of dares where players face extreme perils and embarrassment, but earn buckets of prizes and money. The main character, Vee, somehow gets sucked into the game, and the book is about the challenges she faces as well as if and how she uncovers the truth about the game. The dares were interesting enough to read about, but personally, I found it much too obvious that there was bad news associated with NERVE, and so found it hard to connect with any of the characters' decisions and understand why they kept going when they could have just quit. Maybe I felt this way because the movie trailer made it clear that NERVE had some blurred lines going on, but either way, it made it seem like the characters were a bit shallow and didn't have much common sense on them.
Additionally, the characters could have had so much depth to them. The NERVE game was obviously the main point the author was trying to get through to the audience, but it would have been nice if more time and words had been spent building relationships between characters and adding more life to character backstories rather than simply placing them in the story with only a bare explanation - so much more could have been done with this book. As I mentioned earlier, each character seemed to have a bit of a stereotype they fit into, and they never really left that stereotype; there was nothing special about any one character, thus making them easily forgettable.
The potential for romance between Vee and her partner, Ian, is definitely one of the main selling points of this book, and yet I found it quite dull overall. Yes, there's the question hanging over the reader's head of whether or not Ian is who he says he is, and whether or not he'll end up betraying her in the end, but the biggest issue I had with the two is that they didn't have much chemistry. It was almost like they were leaning toward romance only because of the trope and were expected to - they went from not knowing each other to kissing just like that, and it didn't work with me in the least. I like the dude, but I don't want to read about a romance where two people get together for no reason at all.
I've heard people mention that they weren't happy with the ending, and I can see where they were coming from. There was a huge climax, but the last portion of the book ended quite anticlimactically. There's also something that happens at the very end that the reader both expects and doesn't expect, but that itself is another book and movie trope that is simply overdone. With an ending like that, there needs to be another book to justify it and wrap things up. Thanks to that little thing at the end, this story becomes about Vee's personal experience rather than about NERVE as a whole. In the end, I felt like she and Ian didn't matter much in the course of things - at least not yet - and that's never what you want to feel about the main characters.
While I didn't love this book, I went back and watched the trailer for the movie again after finishing this, and it looks to me like the movie will actually be much better than the novel. The thrills look more thrilling and the romance looks more steamy - I definitely recommend going straight to the movie if you're on the fence about whether to read the book.