L.J. Smith is such
a guilty pleasure of mine. I discovered her in sixth grade and have never really given her up. I didn't stumble upon this trilogy until three years ago or so, when I was living at home, marginally employed, and mildly depressed - so, hey, just about as miserable as I was in sixth grade! - and the brain-numbing cheesiness combined with just enough creativity and genuinely intriguing characters was just as soothing then as it was in middle school.
The first and third books of Forbidden Game are my favorites, just because of the framework they use. In book one, the titular game is a paper house that becomes real, that sucks Our Heroes into its alternate reality, and makes them face their worst nightmares. I don't care how
cheesy the rest of it is; that's cool
Our Heroine is, as always, irritatingly perfect, though I find Jenny to come by her "perfection" a little more honestly than some of the other L.J. Smith heroines. Our Hero is even more irritating than normal, moving from starts out looking like a creepy, almost emotionally abusive and controlling relationship with Jenny to an I'm-not-worthy-must-hide-myself-from-your-perfection thing by the end of this book. (And it just gets weirder and worse as the books go on.)
Then, of course, there is Our Villain, who is almost always more interesting, more complex, and not villainy enough to counterbalance how much nicer he is to Our Heroine than Our Hero is. Julian remains one of Smith's kickass villains. He loves Jenny, yes he does, and there's a good reason
why it's her and no other. He is descended from a race of monsters, but there's a (okay, less good, but still plausible) reason
why he is less monstery. He's got just enough zazz in him to make you think he might actually harm the rest of The Gang, but you never (I never) really believe he's going to harm Jenny. It's an interesting set-up.
Plus, these books get total props for a) actually killing people and 2) even the people who end up not dead, you actually think
are dead for a good long while. Horror movies are so much more thrilling when people might actually get knocked off.