The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli



[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

[The cover-art is badass. It’s what drew me to the book because it’s super demonic looking. Too bad this book proves that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.]


“Don Giovanni was once the wealthiest and handsomest young man in Messina. Then a tidal wave changed everything. When a well-dressed stranger offers him a magical purse, he knows he shouldn’t take it. Only the devil would offer a deal like this, and only a fool would accept.

Don Giovanni is no fool, but he is desperate. He takes the bet: he will not bathe for 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days. Beauty is a small price to pay for worldly wealth, isn’t it? Unless he loses the wager―and with it his soul.”



Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the occasional young-adult book for me is fine. I don’t mind them, and highly appreciate them if they can stand out on their own. [My favorite literary series is actually YA] Then there are the examples that make me never want to read another YA novel again. Unfortunately, this book was one of them.

It stood out to me immediately when I saw it. Badass cover, covered in demons and is a noticeable red/black color scheme. It’s about making a deal with the devil, where a pompous rich boy suffers for his previous actions in life. Seems legit, seems like something I’d enjoy, but sadly in this case – not really at all. The book is less than 300 pages, some pages mostly taken up by separated conversations or chapter art, but took me forever to get through because it was just so… boring.

You start off meeting the main character, Don Giovanni, who is a young teenaged playboy with everything he wants in the world. His parents died when he was young, so he inherited their fortunes and mansion and spends his money frivolously, ignoring all warnings from his caretakers about doing so. This comes to bite him in the ass when he upsets what is hinted at being a Saint, and a natural disaster [tidal wave] hits his homeland and destroys everything, leaving him homeless and penniless. He then has to deal with the humility of being a beggar, until the Devil comes and offers him his wealth back, with the wager that is mentioned in the above description of the book.

The book’s general story has a lot of potential, especially since it’s loosely based on an already-existing legend: “Don Giovanni De La Fortuna” which is an ancient Sicilian Fairytale. But I really felt like it fell on it’s face pretty early in the book and never really tried to stand back up. Maybe if it wasn’t written as a YA novel and went more into detail of what was happening, I might feel different.

I mean, come on, you’re dealing with making a deal with Satan himself, a character that you barely see/deal with in the book, and the book barely skims the surface of how crappy the situation is. There are some parts that touch a little on that. When the character doesn’t bathe/groom for that amount of time, he has to deal with having worms, abscesses and boils, and then is described as what seems to be a UTI that he is embarrassed about for long enough that he can’t control his bladder/bleeds, only making his smell/appearance worse. But that’s about it, and the descriptions are barely existent. Definitely not enough to believe that he hasn’t bathed in over three years. You barely read about the Devil, and you barely learn about what goes on other than his occasional injury here and there.

You’d think for a wager with Lucifer himself, he’d also try to get more involved, and make the main character fail like he usually does with pretty much every other story of Satan making a wager with someone. But nope. Even when he does show up, the interactions are pretty lame.

Also, the author is pretty awful with wanting to start off every sentence with ‘Don Giovanni.’ Don Giovanni did this, then Don Giovanni did that. Then Don Giovanni went over here, where then Don Giovanni did something else. If I wanted to see that style in a book, I’d just re-read the Dick and Jane books, which I definitely know I found more amusing as a kid than this book.

Plus, the ending just comes up all of a sudden, and it’s just so… stupidly simple.

If you wanna know, you can expand the site to see the tiny font to see what I’m talking about:
SPOILERS!   It’s literally like: And then the wager was won, the main character was handsome and healthy again, and he and his magical new wife lived happily ever after. THE END.

Which literally left me like: ‘Dafuq? Are you kidding me?!’ The author’s note at the end even goes on how she left out parts of the original legend that extend after the ending, which in themselves are far more interesting then how the entire story was crafted.




I give The Wager 1/5 Lackluster Deals with the Devil


[I was super close to giving it a 2/5, ONLY because the cover is pretty, and the best written/only good character in the book is a dog, who ended up with a good life after having started off as a starving stray. But the book was just so bland, that would be giving it too much]


Unfortunately, there weren’t any quotes that stuck out to me in this book. It was that bland.


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