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Black Chalk

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  9,850 ratings  ·  1,317 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 August 4th 2015 by Picador (first published September 19th 2013)
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Average rating 3.22  · 
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 ·  9,850 ratings  ·  1,317 reviews

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Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it
dark academia will forever be the aesthetic of my soul buuuuut this book just doesnt quite pass the vibe check.

sure, the idea is great. not exactly original, but it has all the classic characteristics of the genre. however, an interesting idea is usually never enough.

i want world building - im still clueless about certain aspects of the game and why the students even play it.

i want characterisation - this is a psychological story, but the heavy focus on the plot leaves little room for much ne
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
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.

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 ...more
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 unpre
Bren fall in love with the sea.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of dark twisted unique mysteries.
Recommended to Bren fall in love with the sea. by: Magazine review.
“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."

Christopher Yates-Black Chalk

I just do not get how anyone could give this under a 4. I first heard about Black Chalk when I read a review of it, not online, but in a magazine. I knew I had to h
Sep 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
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, t
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
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
Patrice Hoffman
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
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. ...more
Noel Penaflor
A diverting enough thriller that ultimately promises more than it can deliver. 6 Oxford students play a very dangerous game, the consequences rendered over a number of years. The machinations of Yates' game are somewhat muddled to a point to where the reader is either confused or left not caring. The characters are reasonably well-drawn and you're never bored. But you're also never really enthralled. Mild recommendation. ...more
May 02, 2021 rated it it was ok
2,5 stars. I thought this'd be getting a 3 from me throughout the book, but the finale was so ridiculously anticlimactic I HAD to bump it down. It's not unreadable trash, it's decently entertaining but
-the characters are weak
-it's lowkey misogynistic (like most books written by men; the women are just there to be love interests and create relationship drama, little more than pawns in the mind games the men play, I don't think it even passes the Bechdel test)
-ridiculously vague (the author never
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, fiction
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
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
M.L. Rio
Disclaimer: I think my initial reading of this was slightly marred by the bizarre Kindle formatting. Lines broke off in the middle of sentences, paragraph and chapter breaks were not at all clear, et cetera. So, I think I found it more confusing than it actually is. But to the actual review:

Black Chalk is at once fascinating and frustrating. The premise is at once reminiscent of The Secret History or Gentlemen and Players but the mechanics of the deadly 'game' are never entirely clear. We know t
Ian Mapp
Jun 18, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 22, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2022
Like 4 or 5 years ago I read a BTS fanfic called White Chalk. When I got to the end of the story there was an author’s note saying it was loosely based on this book, Black Chalk. I figured since I enjoyed the fic I should give the book a try. But then I saw all the mixed/negative reviews and decided I better not.

But here I am, years later, having read it because Kayla from BooksandLala read it in a video and gave it 4 stars. But uh… I think I should’ve just stuck with my original plan of not re
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
Ange H
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
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
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. ...more
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
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
Melanie  Brinkman
It's all fun and board games until you role tragic results.

When a group of 6 best friends meet in their first year at Oxford University, they create a game. A game of dares with ever escalating consequences, increasingly personal, increasingly malicious. Then they roll one tragic time too many.

But, it's not over. 14 years later, the remaining players meet up to finish the game.

A story of a testing the mind, body, and spirit. A tale of who will meet the end victorious.

Trigger warnings for self-h
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
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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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“Because any friendship was a path and paths always led elsewhere. To more paths and new places.” 4 likes
“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” 3 likes
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