Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Purchase here: Amazon
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Knowles is surrounded by the privileged. Michael Kors gym bags and designer shoes are part of her daily scene, but the talented cheerleader has a secret: she and her dad can barely pay the bills. Broken by his wife walking out on their family, Chelsea’s father ignores his responsibilities. Between cheer costs, grocery bills, electricity, and other regular financial burdens, it’s no surprise when a cut-off notice arrives in the mail. Chelsea knows it’ll be up to her to keep the lights on.
With the deck stacked against her, Chelsea decides to bet their future on the dubious poker knowledge she learned from her father before he gave up on parenting. Nervous but determined, Chelsea heads to a casino with very little security and wins big. Thrilled by her win, she’s quickly drawn to the casino again and again. She risks it all, especially when the attractive, young pit boss takes an interest in her.
Chelsea’s life, no longer filled with cheerleading, school, and hanging out with her friends, is now consumed by smoky casino floors and the ups and downs of a gambler’s life. True gamblers know when to fold, but Chelsea keeps betting long after her needs are met. The complicated web of lies soon begins to spin out of control, threatening to expose everything. Will someone see through her bluff?
Thank you Amberjack Publishing and Netgalley for my copy of Bluff by Julie Dill!
Bluff by Julie Dill tells the story of 17-year-old Chelsea who lives with her irresponsible dad. Every month they can barely pay their bills, and in a moment of desperation, Chelsea goes to a casino in the hopes of making some cash. There she lies about her name and age and starts playing poker. Bluff had a lot of potential, potential to do amazing things. When I first saw the book, and read its synopsis, I thought, finally a book about teenage addiction, specifically gambling addiction. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.
As someone who knows how poker works, at least well enough to understand the majority of the lingo, I really liked that we got to see so many scenes in great detail of how Chelsea plays poker. However, the book falls short in its execution of the fact that Chelsea actually has an addiction, which is clear in her actions but is never actually addressed. Two parts that really signal that Chelsea has a problem with her gambling can be seen in the following quotes,
“It’s almost by default that I end up where I do. My car just goes there. I need to see Nate. But even more, I need to play poker.”
“A perfect life would be just hang around here and play poker. Forever.”
What the book fails to do is acknowledge, on the page, that Chelsea has an addiction, and that the gambling needs to stop. Another problem I had with the book was the love interest, who worked at the casino. Even though he didn’t know Chelsea was underage, and he did break up with her when he found out her age towards the end, it really irked me that the romance was even a part of this book at all, at least with someone older. There were some amazing friendships in this book, and I would have loved to have them developed further instead.
Julie Dill managed to create a main character that the reader easily relates to and feels for, but failed in story and plot for me. Towards the end, the story really seemed to be turning around. The romantic relationship ended, and both the father and Chelsea got stable jobs. What completely ruined the book was the last scene. Everything had started to turn for the better for Chelsea, she got a second chance, and the reader gets the impression that she is ending her gambling. Then this happens at the very end,
“And some time later, at two o’clock in the morning, I find myself walking into a new, different casino.
Looking for something.”
I understand that addiction is complex, and doesn’t just go away because you are met with obstacles that are impossible to overcome. However, that’s why I feel this book should have taken a different route. There was room to do so much good with this book, to show how addiction works and how to get help. Instead, this book basically romanticized addiction in the way it didn’t really take it seriously, and teens that read Bluff need to know that Chelsea’s behavior is not okay. I feel that Bluff really needs a sequel to address and sort out everything it missed in the first book.