The End Games | T. Michael Martin | Book Review

My number one most anticipated 2013 young adult debut was The End Games by T. Michael Martin, and so when a package containing this highly coveted book arrived on my door step, I rightly freaked out in the best possible fashion. The official summary contains so many of my favorite elements – sibling relationships, video games, zombies, and romance. Not to mention the awesome West Virginia setting (I’ve been there for a basketball game – WVU vs. UConn). And so, I went into The End Games with expectations of post-apocalyptic excitement — for the most part my expectations were met.

The End Games T Michael Martin Book Cover

Michael is 17 years old and on the run with his five year old brother Patrick. The two are part of an intricate game where they receive messages from ‘The Game Master’. During the day they look for others who have survived as they have — also searching for the safe zone. When night falls though, the Bellows come out. The Bellows are these zombie-like creatures who can’t speak except to echo what they hear and who also cannot come out during the day. Michael and Patrick rock at killing Bellows, as they are pretty great gamers. Unfortunately the Bellows begin to evolve, which makes the Game that much harder. It’s a race against time as the two search for the Safe Zone and for Michael, he finds romance along the way (but not enough to turn this into a cheese fest).

Typically for me to enjoy a book I have to like the main character. Luckily The End Games does not have an annoying protagonist. Michael is wonderful. He deeply cares for his brother Patrick and is such a loving caretaker. I liked that this kind of subverts typical images of masculinity in that we get to see Michael really behave in a nurturing fashion. Like, when you get the true depth of just how much he does for Patrick, you’ll totally get why I am saying this — so I guess that’s kind of a hint that you need to go pre-order The End Games right this second. Another thing I liked about Michael was that he was using the end of times/apocalypse as an opportunity to change and be brave. His life has not exactly been easy and so it’s not hard to make the leap as to why he’d be happier when the world is falling apart.

Patrick plays a pretty huge role in T. Michael Martin’s debut novel. There were points where I wanted to hug Patrick and points where I wanted to strangle him, which probably shows how awful I am as a person. Now, I know he’s five years old and I can’t exactly expect him to behave as a mini-adult. Which okay, that is awesome that the author made it so Patrick came across as very realistic. AND he also has a few behavioral issues. However, there were still a few points where I was like, really kid, come ON. Again, this is because I am awful and really has nothing to do with the book.

One thing that I felt The End Games totally excelled at and well, did fricken fabulous was the world building. Here’s the thing, when an author is writing something post-apocalyptic I have to believe it. I have to think to myself, yes this makes sense. Otherwise, you won’t really have buy-in from me as a reader on the book. It’s all a part of my engagement. Thankfully, the Bellows and the Game are artfully done. In the beginning, we’re kind of thrown into the end times. There’s not exactly an explanation of why it’s happening. We just know that West Virginia has been overrun by Bellows and there is a safe zone. As the book continues, it’s gradually revealed what has happened. I love that. I love that I basically get to kind of test the waters as a reader and am trusted to kind of put the pieces together and figure it out. I also want to mention that I loved how well the setting was incorporated. There’s a lot of talk of coal country and small towns dirt poor towns mixed with wealthy areas, just like real life West Virginia. There’s also a lot of references to West Virginia University, as there should be since it’s kind of a big deal for that state.

To be 100% honest with all of you, The End Games took me forever to read. Not that it’s a bad thing, just the writing was super tiny and the copy I read was 370 pages, plus I had crazy work hours while trying to read. Also, I should tell you that the writing style is very different from a lot of the YA I read. It’s fairly complex and a bit literary. So, I think if you liked books like The Passage or The Reapers Are The Angels or The Road, you’ll end up liking The End Games. It did take me a little while to get into, but on the whole I ended up digging the different writing style. One thing that totally helped drive my interest in the book and kept me turning the pages was that there were lots of HOLY F— twists. Straight up, I like things like that. I like not being able to predict a book. I like when I go WHAT THE EFF JUST HAPPENED! DID I READ THAT RIGHT?!

However, despite all of my praise, basically just one thing pissed me off: One of the characters calls Michael’s mother who keeps going back to her abusive husband, Patrick’s father weak. I found this super annoying because it feeds into victim blaming and lots of misconceptions about unhealthy relationships. Like, I don’t think people realize how hard it is to leave an unhealthy relationship and that it’s a hell of a lot more complex than if they ever hit me I’d be out the door. Especially when you consider the fact that Michael’s mom is in poverty, so finances definitely will play a part. Further, Ron, the stepfather, isn’t abusive 100% of the time. He’s also Patrick’s father, and Patrick needs expensive pills. Also, the cost of fighting for custody isn’t exactly cheap. Now, I know the average reader won’t pick up on this because not everyone is obsessive about that topic the way that I am. So, take what I say with a grain of salt and note that my peeves are not likely to be your peeves.

That aside, I ended up really enjoying The End Games by T. Michael Martin and the journey that it brought me on. I loved that there was an actual conclusion and resolution instead of a cliffhanger. I’m not sure, but I think this book is a standalone, at least according to goodreads. The writing style is unique, the characters well drawn, and the world building (which FYI, not anti-science) is legit. In all, if you like post apocalyptic books, you definitely need to add this one to your TBR.

Disclosure: Received for review

Other reviews of The End Games by T. Michael Martin

At the time of writing this March 23, I haven’t found any reviews on google to link. If you review this, drop your link in the comments and I will add it up here.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. This is really high up on my ‘can’t wait’ list! I’m beyond curious about it so I’m happy to hear that it has some solid world building and a great main character. It is unfortunate that they choose to see his mother in such a way though.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it and I’m definitely ready to read this one.

  2. You have me so excited to read this, April. I have it coming up for review soon, and I agree, it’s one of my most anticipated reads of 2013. That, and The Ward, which unfortunately I am hearing some negative things about. BOOOO. But I’m glad you liked this. And I do like literary styles. So I’m even more excited to read it now.

  3. *shudder* This world sounds creepy-awesome! I love when the author creates a world that completely encompasses you, even when it’s a bleak, post-apocalyptic world. I’m going to have to check this one out!

  4. It will not surprise you AT ALL to know that I have also been anticipating this book in the WORST way.

    It makes me so happy to hear that the world building is rad and the main character is bomb and the video gaming meets zombie killing is just making my heart SOAR.

    I share your annoyance with the social commentary regarding the abusive relationship. Any relationship, healthy or unhealthy, is not black and white. Not that I want the author to be like “abuse is okay!” but there are certainly ways of handling it better than shame/guilt too.

    Basically I’m like flailing and ready for this book NOW PLEASE AND THANKS.

  5. My review for this one hasn’t gone live yet, but I enjoyed it immensely. However, it definitely took me a while to read.

    I totally agree with you on the amazing world-building. I live in Pittsburgh – about 30 minutes away from WV (& that’s if I hit all the red lights). Being so close to where this book took place made it even better for me. Abandoned coal mines, steel mills, and small towns are a part of everyday life for me and the descriptions were perfect.

    I don’t consider myself to be a zombie fan, so to have this book pull me in like it did and make me worry about & care for these characters is a testament to just how fantastic The End Games is.

  6. The tiny-print thing drives me nuts, I’m sorry it took you so long to read because of it.

    The story sounds pretty good all in all, 🙂 and I kind of love this cover

  7. This one definitely has me intrigued, so I’m happy that you had good things to say about it! I LOVE the cover …. definitely creepy. 🙂 That’d be great if it’s a standalone … it’s rare to find a post-apocalyptic/dystopian-type book that isn’t part of a series.

    Great review! 🙂

  8. I really like The Road, so I’m excited that you mentioned it in your review. I really want to read The End Games–I’ve heard lots of good things about the twists in the book(one which was unfortunately spoiled for me, but I kinda suspected it after reading the summary). Plus, the cover is fantastic. Catches my eye immediately.

  9. You had me at a “fairly complex and a bit literary” writing style. That’s the main thing I miss about adult fiction! This does sound really interesting and I love the idea of it really focusing on a brother to brother relationship and showing one becoming the caregiver for the other. That definitely isn’t something seen too frequently in YA, as is a book focused on males, really. Wonderful review! I definitely will be adding this to my TBR list! 🙂

  10. And can we talk about the FREAKING AWESOME COVER?! Because it’s one of my favorites this year. I’m so excited this one (mostly) worked out so well for you. I love well drawn post-apocalyptic worlds (in fact, I’ll be reading The Road soon so…), and in these types of books characters are usually just icing for me. Really looking forward to it!

  11. This is one of my most anticipated books of 2013 too!! I was so happy to see a review of it by you in my email! Everything about the goodread’s synopsis caught my attention. He had me at the whole world ending on Halloween part. Plus, I’m kinda crazy about zombie things anyway.

    I’ve heard a few things about the writing style, but never got any specifics, so hearing that it’s similar to The Reapers Are The Angels is nice — but scary. I couldn’t get through The Reapers Are The Angels…. But I am willing to give The End Games more time to grow on me. Great, great review!

  12. I can’t even describe how excited I’ve been for this book, so I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it.
    World-building and plot are my main things when it comes to enjoying a story, so I’m happy to hear it does well at both. I’m thinking I might have to make this my next read.

  13. I’ve been interested in this book since I first heard of it. Sibling relationships AND gamer references? What’s not to love? I’m so glad that it sounds like it lives up to the hype that precedes it. The characters, particularly Michael, sound incredible and I’m curious/scared to meet these Bellows. I’m definitely going to need to get a copy!


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