“Tag, You’re Dead” by J.C. Lane, a pen name for Judy Clemens, is a riveting thriller. She takes the playground game and evolves it to fit into today’s technology-oriented society. Readers might relate to this as a darker version of the very popular new game, “Pokeman Go.”
This is a game where the stakes could not be any higher, considering the runners’ lives are at risk. It will play into people’s worst fears since it seems very plausible how someone can be kidnapped and forced to run for their life by some mysterious person in the Internet age. In this story there are three “runners” and three “its.” Almost like a cat and mouse game where three are on the run as prey and three are the pursuers on the chase.
When asked about the plot being open ended Lane commented, “At this point it’s just a stand alone. I wanted to write a book in the same mode as ‘The Hunger Games’ with a life and death scenario. My husband, a Physical Education teacher was telling me about the type of games his students play, including tag. I thought how could that game happen in today’s technology world?”
The protagonists are likeable while the antagonists appear to be psychopaths of sort. The “Its” are Brandy, obsessed with destroying a naturally beautiful girl; Robert, wanting to target his fellow teammate, a superstar of the high school basketball team; and Charles, a brainiac who wants a game with an intellectual equal. They are vicious and rich people, unsatisfied with their own lives, who need something to feel better about themselves.
On the other hand, the “runners” have a rich and satisfied life. Laura, is a sweet, caring teenager who makes friends easily; Tyrese is an all star basketball player who has street smarts; Amanda is a geeky gamer extraordinaire. With their lives on the line they use their skills to win the game, to reach home base first. What makes the story interesting is how these three respond to the challenges placed upon them, each in their own way.
Chicago is the setting where the game takes place. It becomes a secondary character of sorts. Lane uses the cities landmarks to enhance the story. The author noted, “I have always loved Chicago. I grew up in northern Indiana, so when our family went to “the city,” it was Chicago, where we visited. I also lived in Evanston for a year while my dad was getting his doctorate at Northwestern University, so I have good memories from that time. A few years ago my husband took me to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, and we stayed at The Palmer House, a National Historical Landmark hotel, went to a play, and attended a recording session of my favorite NPR show, ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.’ The trip was a reminder of how much I love the city, and when the idea for this story came to me, Chicago was automatically the place I wanted it to be set. The characters end up in so many of my favorite places, including the Adler Planetarium, Wrigley Field, and the Art Institute, just to name a few.”
As the story progresses the old cliché applies, money can’t buy you happiness. This story definitely puts a new spin on the old playground game of tag. It is the race against time, which will make the reader frantically turn the pages, wanting to find out what happens at the finish line.