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Black Chalk

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  7,092 ratings  ·  997 reviews
It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares. But then the game changed: The stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by Harvill Secker (first published September 19th 2013)
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3.25  · 
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 ·  7,092 ratings  ·  997 reviews

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He would force himself to make friends with one British student at Pitt. Because any friendship was a path and paths always led elsewhere. To more paths and new places. Maybe even a better kind of life. And then, if he could only find a new world, Chad would skip down its lanes. Wherever they took him.

ahhhh, famous last words….

this is one of those cases where i feel i have to remind people that three stars from me is not a low rating. three is my broadest range of star-distribution, and this one
Sean Gibson
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s an inherently difficult challenge in writing a taut thriller by simple virtue of the fact that, in the vast majority of cases, the revelation of a thing is always less scary/creepy/horrifying than the imagining of the thing prior to its revelation (insert joke here re: except in the case of the removal of my pants).

As a writer, then, you’re faced with three options, and it’s how you balance those options that determines success (or lack thereof) in terms of keeping readers riveted.

Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it

Anyone who doesn't see the danger in an "innocent" board-game played between loved ones- has never played Risk with my father and I. It wasn't pretty, and friends who occasionally joined in- would usually get to see a whoooooooooole new side to my family. Alliances were formed...there was sometimes yelling and pleading. And by the end- it was almost always down to me and my dad- both of us ignoring everyone around us- "It's just a game!", "I've had enough", "This is stupid" "I'm going to bed" "C
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, my thanks for the opportunity.

One game. Six students. Five survivors.

It was only ever meant to be a game.

A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredi
Sep 01, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Where to start with this disaster of a novel?

Black Chalk is about a game. The jacket and reviews will hint that the game is mysteriously dark and devious and will have a shocking conclusion.. If only. In truth, the game is never really described, despite the very long lead up to it and all the build up. The consequences are built up even more, they must be terrible, truly horrific and psychologically devastating, right?? I mean, that's what the book is about, right?? Nope. The consequences are
The premise of Black Chalk is fascinating. In the 1990s, a group of six friends at an Oxford University college invent an intense, secretive psychological game. This mainly consists of a series of increasingly humiliating and personal forfeits, which the player must carry out without letting anyone know they are dares. And the stakes are high, as after the intervention of a mysterious game society at the university, the victor stands to win £10,000. Back to the present day: one of the group (and ...more
Sep 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book held such promise from the initial synopsis. As soon as I read it on Amazon, I knew I had to have it; "...perfect for fans of the high tension and expert pacing of The Secret History..." Using my second favorite novel of all time in the premise of a book, and likening the two, how could I not want to read this? As you can probably tell, my expectations were sky high with the hopes of reading something on par with Ms. Donna Tartt.

And let me say this: Everything about this book fell flat
Daphne (Illumicrate)
I'm not really sure what to say about this book. I picked it up because the synopsis grabbed me. College, games, friends, someone mysteriously dies, it all sounded really interesting.

I liked the narration of the book as well. It was slightly confusing at first as it kept switching from 1st person present, to 3rd person past, to even an odd 2nd person (I may have to brush up on my grammar but I think this is right) sometimes, but it was clever and served the story and the reveals well.

What I di
Liz Barnsley
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Coming September from Random House UK Vintage Publishing

Thank you kindly to the publisher and the author for the advance copy of this novel via Netgalley.

One game. Six students. Five survivors.

At University, six friends come together and play a game. Its a silly little game imagined by two of their number – a game of actions followed by consequences growing ever more intricate in nature…with one winner to remain standing at the end. Fun. Oh yes. Or no. As the game becomes ever more involved, the
Oy-I don't know how to rate this book. It was cleverly plotted, although requiring some suspension of disbelief. You are introduced to some nice, seemingly normal, civilized people and watch four of them slowly ( a lot too slowly) devolve into vicious, remorseless, savage, merciless monsters. Sort of like a hardcore intense psychological Lord of the Flies.

I really enjoyed Grist Mill Road by this author, and I think that is why I persevered and why I am reluctant to 2* this one. Ihated did not e
Patrice Hoffman
May 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates is one interesting ride down memory lane with a character named Jolyon who recounts how his life changed dramatically 14 years earlier. Six friends decide to embark on a game where after a series of rounds, consequences will be given in gradual escalation in order to prevent elimination if one of those rounds are lost. The game is meant to be strictly psychological. A game of the mind. But of course, with all good things, the game costs more than these six can ...more
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Six friends come together at Oxford University - one American, five British; four male and two female. As we get to know Chad, Jolyon, Mike, Emilia, Dee and Jack, we discover how they began to play a game - 'the game' - whose consequences went too far and the implications of which are still felt fourteen years later when one of the characters looks back on what happened. The game begins in earnest when some of the students are at the freshers fair and come across the 'Game soc'. The stall is man ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, netgalley
This is a book of psychological suspense about six friends in their first year at Oxford. The four male and two female students invent a game, under the sponsorship of a mysterious club. In this diabolical game, the participants must perform increasingly more embarrassing (but not illegal or dangerous) acts. If they fail or withdraw from the game they forfeit their cash deposits. The ultimate winner takes the entire prize. These people are not after the prize however. It is the "win" that drives ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Don't be fooled by the whole 'you'll like this if you like The Secret History' marketing. As with many other books which are lazily given this epitaph in the hope that it will shift copies, the only thing Black Chalk has in common with The Secret History is that it's (mainly) set in a university. Other than that the two books have nothing in common, with Black Chalk suffering from two-dimensional unsympathetic characters, a plot which isn't as clever as it thinks it is and 'twists' which you can ...more
Aug 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I kept reading this thing until the end. A cast of unlikable characters play adult versions of mean-spirited junior high school pranks on each other as part of a game to which they are totally committed for no apparent reason. I kept hoping for a slam-bang ending, but the finish was an unsurprising slow fade.
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, kindle
Black Chalk is a thriller with a great hook: a group of students at Oxford begin playing a high-stakes Game, daring each other to bear ever deeper levels of humiliation as the rounds continue and the pay-off grows closer. This hook plays adeptly with the social niceties so embedded in English society, wryly raising the question: how can doing benign things cause us such anguish when we have to go against social norms?

Indeed, the scenes that dramatise the Game’s dares are by far its best: squirmy
Black Chalk by Christopher J Yates

In the early 1990s six bright, self-satisfied, Oxford first-years spend time together – smoking and drinking – but want more out of life. So they get involved in “the game”. This is a series of dares – with embarrassment the aim – and penalities. As you might expect, it gets out of hand. Fourteen years later, one is dead and only two are left in the game.

Need a one-word summary? Frustrating.

There were some nice ideas but they weren’t as well developed as they co
Ian Mapp
Jun 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: lit-fict
There needs to be a way on Goodreads of recording why you added a book onto your "to read" shelf. I probably saw a review of it somewhere. Looking at other reviews, it mentions that its like "a secret history", which would explain why I added it.

This is one of those books where I lost any idea about the characters. Who they were, what motivated them, what their interactions with each other. I had no idea.

The split time line didn't help. The weak characterisation didn't help. I hope to god I neve
Fungi From Yuggoth
Review: BLACK CHALK by Christopher Yates

There are so many twists in this labyrinthine novel that I felt quite like a pretzel when I finished, but I also came away with a feeling of satisfaction at reading such a deep, rich, story. I can't say I liked or admired some of the characters, and even those I did empathize with had failings (don't we all), but the author's gift absorbed me into the story regardless. At the ending I kept demanding of one of the characters, "Why didn't you? Couldn't you j
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Black Chalk is a book that falls firmly into the "Sure, I liked it" category. Many people seem to feel the same. The premise of the book, and the promise of the book, is what really sustained it for me.

Six friends, new to a prestigious university where they are, for various reasons, different than most, begin a "game" that we are promised has tragic consequences. When the initial three players first begin to describe the wicked, devious, abhorrent, mind-blowingly cruel consequences that losers o
Ange H
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
Extremely disappointing. Six friends, freshmen at Oxford, decide to join a secret society called "Game Soc" and play a high-stakes game, wherein one of them could win a lot of money. The rules of the game are never explained, but the loser of each round has to perform a "consequence" designed to humiliate him or her, the idea being that at some point each player will say "enough" and drop out until only one remains. As the game progresses, these acts become more and more disturbing, friendships ...more
Richard Mant
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Chalk is a dark and twisting tale of friendships stretched to breaking point as the result of a game of dares. Six students meet in the first few weeks of university and devise a game which they assume will entertain them during their first year of study, fourteen years later it is still being played and the consequences felt.

The story is narrated by one of the players who is reflecting back on the start of the game at the point the last round is about to be played and the ultimate winner
SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*
DNF'd early on,this book lacked fluidity and a clear vision. I was bored,my apologies to those who loved it. Just not my thing.
I have both a penchant for playing games and for reading about people playing games. I think this is a respectable debut novel. Not perfect, but interesting. Not as far fetched as it might be although there is a plot hole that I don't think was sufficiently explained. But, I found this entertaining and a quick read. I like stories that keep propelling me forward...where I do not want to put the book down because I am invested into what happens next. Although I have thankfully never been involved ...more
Erika Schoeps
Chad, an American transfer student in Britain, vows to turn his social life around. He befriends Jolyon, and after that he has a group of fellow freshman friends. Restless, dissatisfied, and cocky, they embark upon "The Game" in order to further add to their lives. They have a good group, but they're all still looking for more.

The sense of camaraderie and discovery of college freedom is warm and lovely. These were my favorite parts of the book. Yates really made this period in their lives feel
Define intrigue.
Black Chalk caught my attention with it's synopsis, spooky cover and cryptic blurbs right away. Any author who is called the British Stephen King is definitely worth a looksee. I think the plot is an interesting one. Six very young, very quirky friends from different backgrounds end up at university together. Then through about 100 pages of not a lot happening they decide to play a game. Still with me? Disaster ensues. They screw up their friendships with each other, and possibl
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Yates in reverse, starting last year with his sophomore effort. It was pretty good, but now I know I’ve been shortchanged, because Black Chalk, his debut, showcases a talent and a potential his second book doesn’t really even come close to. Way to set the standards. And I read a lot of thrillers. A lot. It takes something genuinely original and striking for a thriller to stand out for me and this one definitely had that elusive quality. But fair warning…this book messes with you. It does ...more
Luanne Ollivier
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Black Chalk is Christopher J. Yates's debut novel.

"It was only ever meant to be a game. A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results."

Black Chalk opens in present day with an unnamed narrator remembering his first days at Oxfo
Denise Eggleston
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Books come in many types; fiction and non-fiction, long and short, tedious and fascinating. One type is a “quick read” and another is a “savoring read.” Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates is a book to savor. It tells the story of six friends attending the fictional Pitt College in the non-fictional Oxford University. The story swings in time from the present to fourteen years ago when the six friends meet.

Each friend, like all of us, has his or hers own insecurities. The American, Chad, is asha
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Christopher J. Yates was born and raised in Kent and studied law at Oxford University before working as a puzzle editor in London. He now lives in New York City with his wife and dog.
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“The true gambler plays for the thrill, the sheer ecstasy of taking part. And the purest thrill comes not from the idea of winning but from the fear of defeat, from there being something real and valuable on the line. If there’s nothing to lose, then where’s the thrill? The true gambler does the opposite.’ Middle was gesturing with his fingers, letting them flutter here and there. ‘Yes, the purest lover of the game bets the other way, he goes entirely against the grain. Doesn’t he, Chad?’ Chad gave Emilia a confused” 2 likes
“Because any friendship was a path and paths always led elsewhere. To more paths and new places.” 2 likes
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