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Reviewed by Jess Starke
Opening sentence
It was the right house.
The Democracy Game by Riley Chance gives an insightful view into the world of corrupt politics and shows just how far people are willing to go for their slice of the pie. Journalist Grace Marks, otherwise known as Ace, works as a freelance writer. Investigating two seemingly unrelated stories - the emergence of alt-right politics in New Zealand and the expanding popularity of the organization ProtectNZ. Starting with threatening letters being left at her home to ending up at the scene of a murder, Grace ends up having far more to report on than she ever bargained for.

Although I found this a slow read there were many aspects to the book I enjoyed. The strong characters and interesting plotlines were really engaging. Nevertheless, my opinion on the text varies. On the one hand it was a thrilling text that contained a large range of information and presented in a palatable way that would entice many readers. On the other hand, I also found out after reading the book that Chance had released a book previously to this one that while it is not necessary to read before The Democracy Game, it is referenced a great deal so without reading it before this one you miss out on a large amount of backstory to many of the characters. One such character is Marla Simmons, who is an ex US intelligence hiding out in New Zealand after a mission gone wrong in which she was framed for murder. It is hinted at in the text that Marla and Grace had worked together previously, however we don’t get many details about this aside from the fact there was an attempt on Grace's life. Therefore, I wonder if it would’ve been better to have the book exist as a sequel rather than a standalone.

All in all this book was well written and gave much food for thought to the audience about where New Zealand's political climate could be heading. Whether it be depicted in news stories about places like America or shown in books the concept of alt-right views is something I was no stranger to, which certainly helped when reading this book. Chance asks the question, what if it happened in New Zealand and after watching the most recent election, there are parts of the text that certainly ring true.

The power of social media, knowing who to trust, and being true to yourself are the more prominent themes in the text. What can start as a small movement or small idea, can be propelled into greatness. The way ProtectNZ was shown in the text was a fanatical political group that had just a little but too much sway on the New Zealand public. Yet they appealed to everything New Zealanders seemed to want. They advocated for the little guy, the everyday New Zealander. Those who couldn’t afford solar panels or electric cars, those who didn’t agree with the restrictions the government was putting on people over climate issues. The climate strikes that occurred at parliament recently are easily comparable to what happens with ProtectNZ, and are even referred to in the book. By giving an accessible voice to the masses who may have once been on the fence about certain issues, and making the face of the movement a charming approachable person, many are likely to listen, and believe what they’re saying. Unfortunately thanks to events such as the parliament protests, I can see something like this happening very soon in New Zealand, and personally it is not something I am looking forward to.

- Jess is 16 and lives in Wellington.
Publisher: CopyPress
ISBN: 9781991190680
Format: Hardback
Publication: 2023
Ages: 15+
Themes: Young Adult, Fiction, Political