Having a safe haven means that you have a way of escaping reality; hiding from your pain and problems. “The Game” by Teresa Toten, is a book about a girl named Dani who ends up in an institution for teens. Dani was both mentally and physically abused at home by her manipulative father. Physical abuse may cause bruises to the skin but mental abuse hurts one psychologically and makes the mind mess with that person. This influences the main theme of the book. Dani drowned out her problems by abusing alcohol and drugs. When she was in danger, she created her own safe haven called “The Game”. Dani and her younger sister, Kelly, would always play an imaginative game where they pretended they had high power over a secret world. They made themselves superior; unable to get hurt.
Dani’s relationships with her family, led to her having a breakdown. The father felt that Dani took away the mother’s attention from him, so he tried to tear them apart. The mother was unable to protect her kids from this physical and mental abuse he was giving Dani. Therefore, Dani had to take over a motherly role towards Kelly and protect her from any abuse. It only describes Dani as being abused. The book hints at a different kind of abuse the mother faced; the inability to make decisions for herself. Dani would distract her father from Kelly and make sure all his abusive attention was put on herself. Dani felt that it was her job to protect Kelly, so when Kelly got killed in a car accident, Dani blamed herself. She snapped and she went so insane that she needed to go to an institution to help her.
Through this quote, Dani explains how the game was played:
“Just us, get it? We quested for us, for our souls. What better quest it there? It was my game, all mine. I am the strong one. Connect the dots. We both knew it. It was clear to us. Light and dark. We battled the dark. Kelly was the light, Kelly was good. I am bad. I deserved… I am the dark. He tried to beat it out of me. But I wanted to be good so much for… for everyone. Kelly knew. The quest, it was… to end the bad, the evil in me. And it still goes on and on and on.” Page 132.
It shows how Dani thought of herself. Dani’s father convinced her that she was bad; that she wasn’t good enough. The game was thought to eventually get rid of that bad in her. The darkness of the game was the reflection of her as evil. She wanted to be loved by her father and gain power over this darkness. In order for that she had to be “Good”.
This quote is from when Dani found herself locked in a strange room right after she got to the institution.
“’I am not nuts. I know the floor shouldn’t be moving. I don’t want the floor to move. I’ll be good. Make it stop.’ She remembed the vodka then. Bad. All that vodka. And pills? How many pills? Very, very bad.” Page 7.
She was obviously questioning whether she is going crazy; the vodka, or maybe the pills? I think it was a release of stress, anxiety, sorrow, pain. Her sister had just gotten killed in a car accident, and she thinks it’s her fault. She was Kelly’s protector; she was supposed to make sure she was ok. All that she could think of is that if she would’ve been there, Kelly still would’ve been alive. She could’ve been there, she should’ve been there. It’s a constant heartbreaking, overwhelming wave of guilt.
“Danielle, I’ve left your father. I left him the day after you were admitted. Do you understand? He won’t hurt you or… or anyone again.” Page 74.
This quote from her mother is very important to the book because it brings out a whole new perspective on the situation of Dani and blaming herself for Kelly’s death. She was no longer entirely blaming herself for it. She started thinking more about how if her mother had stood up to the father when all this abuse started, Kelly could’ve been alive. They could’ve been a happy family. All this anger towards her mother was building up and she made up more reasons to hate her. No one wants to feel guilty. When given the chance to blame someone else and make yourself not look and feel as bad normally anyone would take it. Dani didn’t want to live with that feeling anymore and chose to put it on her mother.
During mostly the entire book, Dani was basically in denial of everything that had happened. When Dani’s mom comes to visit her at the institution, Dani acted like Kelly was still alive.
“Take care of her, mother. Promise to take care of Kelly. I said… Take care of Kelly! What’s so wrong with that? With me gone, he’s gonna lay into her! When are you going to get it? What has to happen? What!” Page 74.
She wouldn’t speak about it or even think about it. She chose to convince herself that Kelly was still alive. It wasn’t till nearly the ending that she finally opened up and admitted to her little sister’s death. Dani hid from her past, problems and pain. She hid from them by not talking about it. If she did talk about it she said things to convince herself that nothing really happened. You can trick your mind into telling you lies and basically living in a fake world. Imagination is a big part of it, as she imagined that she was getting rid of the bad in her through the game and she imagined Kelly was still alive.
Hiding from pain is a really big factor towards the theme. The theme was about a safe haven and escaping reality. If you want to escape reality then there must be a sense of pain somewhere that you’re trying to escape. Hiding from it, or being in denial of it, is a way to cope with these feelings and pretend that they aren’t there. Although, in the end, hiding from these problems isn’t the best solution. In order to get real help you have to learn to accept the truth. Once Dani finally accepted everything, she was able to work towards moving on and starting a new, happy life with her mother.
The author was really stressing the advice to not hide from your problems, but instead accept them. Accepting the bad truth is the only way to eventually truly move on and be happy.