Review of Out of Play by Joy Norstrom

To be honest, I wasn’t super excited about reading Out of Play by Joy Norstrom. When I first read the description and saw that a main part of the plot would include larping (live action role playing), I was worried that the novel would veer too far into the fantasy world for my tastes. However, I was completely blown away by this book. It was simply perfection and I’m so grateful to NetGalley and the folks at Crooked Cat Publishing for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you guys before this novel is released on October 27th.

In this novel, Gillian Campbell is at her wits end with her husband. He dedicates all of his free time to his new hobby, larping, and views Gillian’s frustration with not spending time with him as a lack of support of his interests. In hopes of saving her marriage, Gillian seeks the help of a therapist who suggests attending one of these larp weekends in order to give her a better understanding of how her husband spends all his time. It was during this weekend that the root of many of Gill and Ralph’s marital problems surfaces.

First and foremost, I LOVED the voice of Gillian. There were countless moments while reading that I found myself laughing out loud at the way she processed the world around her because I would have absolutely reacted the same way, if I were in her shoes. I particularly loved her relationship with Jas. Norstrom effortlessly portrayed the type of friendship where each person will get behind the person’s convoluted schemes to solve their problems, drop everything when they are in need, and will call the other person out when they’re being crazy. She also astutely picked up on when the reader might need a bit of a break from the exasperated ramblings of Gill and offered Ralph’s perspective on the events that had just transpired in the previous chapter. This allowed for both a deeper understanding of the challenges they were facing as a couple as well as an effortless transition into the reveal of the tragedy that was truly at the root of their marital problems.

Without giving too much away, I also want to commend Norstrom on the way she revealed the tragic turning point of the novel to the reader. Gillian’s struggle to keep her emotions in check as she reflected on this moment combined with her realization that she needed to face her grief head on in order to move forward made this moment so poignant and real. Ultimately, the way in which Norstrom portrayed this moment heightened my understanding and respect for both Gillian and Ralph.

As you can tell, I was pleasantly surprised by Joy Norstrom’s debut novel Out of Play. I really cannot say enough positive things about this novel!  The character development of Gillian, Ralph, and Jas was absolutely amazing. Furthermore, the way Gill interacts with and perceives the world around her is so relatable and as a result, you can’t help but love and root for her! If you’re looking for a good laugh (followed by a good cry), I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Out of Play when it is released on October 27th!

5 out of 5 stars

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