Follow TV Tropes


Literature / All for the Game

Go To

All for the Game is a 2013 book series by Nora Sakavic. The story revolves around the Palmetto State Foxes, an NCAA Exy team. It is primarily a sports story and follows a storyline typical of the genre—with added drugs, violence, and gangsters.

Main character Neil Josten is in hiding, on the run from his mob boss father. He's a Consummate Liar who's just trying to lie low, but when he plays Exy for his latest high school, he somehow catches the attention of David Wymack, head coach of a Divison I college team. He shouldn't say yes to the offer, but he does—and is instantly plunged into a world of tangled relationships, shady deals, lots of violence, and The Power of Friendship.


The series consists of three books:

  • The Foxhole Court
  • The Raven King
  • The King's Men

Tropes present in this series include:

  • Abusive Parents: True for many of the Foxes, specifically Neil, Nicky, Andrew, and Aaron.
    • Neil's parents are an extreme case of this, given that his father was known as "The Butcher of Baltimore" and physically abused him to the point where he is unwilling to take off his shirt in front of others, at one point burning him with an iron when he gave too much information to the police. His mother was also physically abusive, although her abuse left less physical scars.
    • Tilda, Andrew and Aaron's mother, was neglectful for much of Aaron's life, and never told him he had a brother she'd given up for adoption. She became more physically abusive after the twins found out about each other, to the point where Andrew killed her to protect Aaron some years before the story starts.
    • Advertisement:
    • Tetsuji beat Riko and Kevin for their failures on the court ever since they were old enough to train.
  • The Ace: Kevin and Riko are known as the best Exy players in the game, being raised to play by Riko's uncle Tetsuji, one of the two people who invented it. Riko is known as the King of Exy and is the Ravens' ace in particular, while Kevin (whose late mother was Tetsuji's partner and the other inventor) is the Foxes' ace following his transfer and becomes known as the Queen in The King's Men.
  • Addiction Displacement: Matt's mother got him into sports to help his drug withdrawal.
  • Always Identical Twins: The easiest way to tell Andrew and Aaron apart is Andrew's trademark armbands.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Riko convinces Neil to stay at Castle Evermore over the Christmas break by threatening Andrew.
  • Advertisement:
  • Archnemesis Dad: Neil's biggest fear is that his father will find him and make him pay for running away.
  • Attempted Rape: Seth saves Allison from frat boys when she passes out drunk at a party. It's the first time she sees him as more than a loudmouthed, aggressive jerk, heralding the start of their relationship.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: A large part of Kevin's success on the court comes from his ability to calculate the exact angles and trajectory his shots need to hit precise targets. He teaches this skill to Neil, who has an interest in maths, over the course of the series.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Andrew takes every opportunity to tell Neil he hates him and wants to kill him, while Neil is often frustrated by Andrew's difficult attitude and apathy. Despite this, Andrew is secretly intensely attracted to Neil, who eventually reciprocates.
  • Berserk Button: Andrew has several of these, mainly anyone attacking Neil or Kevin, women attacking Aaron, and being touched without his consent.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Renee states that she is "a bad person trying very hard to be a good person", despite her outward appearance of pure benevolence.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Neil and Andrew in The King's Men.
  • Big Damn Reunion: When Neil reunites with Andrew and the rest of the Foxes after nearly being killed by his father.
  • The Big Guy: Matt is one of the team's backliners and is described as big. He is one of the few characters in the series who is tall.
  • Bitch Slap: Allison delivers a furious one to Aaron when he callously blames Neil for Seth's death.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Andrew, Kevin, and Neil, once his hair is back to its natural color.
  • Cain and Abel: Riko and Kevin are legally adopted brothers, although neither sees themselves as related in that sense and Kevin grew up as Riko's pet. This combined with Tetsuji's abuse and their intense, conflicting feelings for each other strained their relationship, and the final straw had Riko breaking Kevin's dominant hand out of jealousy over his Exy prowess, leading Kevin to finally leave Riko and transfer to the Foxes.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Subverted. Kevin's broken hand was expected to be one, but he continued playing with his non-dominant hand instead, and gradually regains full use of his dominant hand by the final championship game.
  • Chess Motifs: As Riko is known as the King of Exy, Kevin has the original number 2 tattoo on his cheek replaced with a tattoo of a chess queen in open defiance of Riko, saying he's going to be 'the deadliest piece on the board'.
  • Cool Car: Andrew buys a Maserati mid-series.
  • Consummate Liar: Neil has been lying to survive for years, and he is very good at it, to the point where Andrew calls him a pathological liar on multiple occasions.
  • Crippling the Competition: Riko breaks Kevin's hand out of jealousy over Kevin starting to outshine him on the court.
  • Cure Your Gays: Nicky's religious parents sent him to a conversion therapy camp while he was in high school, although he only pretended to have been 'cured' to get out. His parents were so proud of his 'recovery' that they agreed to allow him to study in Germany, where he met his future husband, so their plan backfired in every way.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Many of the Foxes, since their team is composed entirely of kids with troubled childhoods. Their coach deliberately recruits players with this in order to give them a chance at a better life.
  • David Versus Goliath: The Palmetto State Foxes are the laughingstock of Class I Exy, going up against the Ravens, the undefeated champion team.
  • Death by Origin Story: Neil's mother, Mary, died from injuries sustained during a confrontation with his father shortly before the start of the story.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Andrew was abused repeatedly while he was in foster care. To be fair, it's unknown whether anyone found out about this and took action to help him, but given the way he speaks about his time in the system, it's unlikely.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Riko Moriyama is the king of this, with his punishments ranging from torture to murder for the crime of disrespect.
    • After their mother's abuse, Andrew made a deal with Aaron to protect him from violent women. Unfortunately, his protection extends to nearly breaking Allison's neck for slapping Aaron.
  • Everyone Can See It: Downplayed. While Wymack, Renee and Kevin—three of the Foxes emotionally closest to Andrew—figure out that Andrew is attracted to Neil, others like Matt and Allison are only able to guess part of the truth, and Aaron and Nicky—Andrew's twin and cousin—have no idea until Allison casually outs them after seeing Andrew's reaction to Neil's injuries in Baltimore.
  • Facial Markings: Riko, Kevin and Jean all have number tattoos (1, 2 and 3 respectively) on their left cheekbones to indicate their places in Riko's Exy hierarchy. Neil was originally supposed to be the third, but his mother ran away with him before he could join Riko, and he's forced to get the number 4 tattoo instead during his stay at Castle Evermore.
  • A Father to His Men: Despite his gruff exterior, Wymack cares for all his players while knowing not to pry into their personal lives unless necessary. In The Raven King, it's further revealed that Kevin is his biological son.
  • Fictional Sport: Exy, which is primarily based on lacrosse with elements of hockey and indoor soccer.
  • Foster Kid: Tilda gave up both Andrew and Aaron initially, but took Aaron back as a baby while Andrew remained in the foster system.
  • Friends with Benefits:
    • Neil and Andrew start a physical relationship in The Raven King, as Neil's days are too numbered for an emotional connection and Andrew insists that he still hates Neil despite his attraction.
    • Andrew had a similar (but more casual) relationship with Roland before he got serious about Neil.
    • This sort of relationship is common in the Nest, as the Ravens are forbidden to interact with outsiders or have any romances at all.
  • Hates Being Touched: Andrew, to an extreme degree. It is later revealed that this is because he was sexually abused and raped multiple times since early childhood.
  • Hollywood Kiss: Neil and Andrew's first kiss. The aftermath, not so much.
  • Hookers and Blow: Matt's father hosted wild parties involving hard drugs and prostitutes, and encouraged Matt to try everything as well.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • When Kevin finds out Neil's true identity near the end of the first book.
    • Kevin reveals that his hand was not broken in a skiing accident to reporters during an interview in The King's Men.
  • Intoxication Ensues: The Foxes often get wasted on weekends or after games.
  • Junkie Parent: Wymack, Andrew, Aaron and Matt all have parents addicted to various drugs.
  • Knife Nut: Andrew, Riko, and Nathan.
  • Killed Off for Real: Seth, Riko, and Nathan Wesninski, among others.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Nicky forcefully kisses Neil with a mouthful of cracker dust to drug him for Andrew's interrogation, while already hopped up on dust himself. It understandably takes Neil a while to forgive him.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: A dark example with Kevin and Riko. They grew up together as master and pet in what was essentially a cult and became extremely co-dependent, never leaving each other's sight even to use the restroom. They remain obsessed with each other their entire lives, and despite his abuse Kevin still mourns Riko's death.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: In The King's Men, Kevin reveals to Wymack that he is Wymack's son.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • Seth's death is made to look like a drug overdose.
    • Tilda died in a car accident while Andrew survived. Only the Foxes know for sure that Tilda had continued to beat Aaron despite Andrew's warnings, and he'd wanted Tilda to know that she'd laid hands on his brother for the last time…
    • Kayleigh's car accident was really engineered by Kengo Moriyama as a 'favour' to Tetsuji, so that he could gain custody of Kevin and start training him for the court.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Averted. Neil is uninterested in sex until he develops feelings for Andrew, and due to Andrew's history of sexual trauma, he doesn't always want it either.
  • Matricide: Andrew causes his mother's fatal car accident after she continues to beat Aaron despite his warnings.
  • Metaphorically True: Neil often tells a mixture of truth and lies in order to gain people's trust and satisfy their curiosity.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Most of the Foxes think Andrew and Renee are an unofficial couple, not knowing that Andrew is gay.
  • Muscle Angst: Allison developed bulimia due to having to juggle her Exy training and her parents' publicity expectations.
  • Nailed to the Wagon: Andrew locked Aaron in the bathroom to force him to come off the drugs he used to steal from their mother.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Butcher of Baltimore.
  • Never Suicide: Riko is shot in the head by his brother Ichirou after losing the championship finals at the end of The King's Men, and the gun is planted in his hand.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Killing Seth was probably the one thing Riko could have done to get the Foxes to start working together as a team.
  • No Medication for Me: Andrew's court-ordered medication makes him manic without actually suppressing his violent tendencies. He and Wymack strike a deal to allow him to secretly come off his meds every week on game night so that he can play better, although he suffers withdrawal symptoms every time.
  • Odd Friendship: Andrew and Renee's close friendship baffles most of the other Foxes. As Neil discovers, it isn't that odd after all, as Renee's violent past as a gang member, rape victim and killer makes her one of the few who can understand Andrew.
  • Official Couple:
    • Neil and Andrew end the series officially as Friends with Benefits, although they finally acknowledge that their feelings for each other run deeper.
    • Dan and Matt have been dating since before the start of the series.
    • Aaron is in an unofficial relationship with Vixen Katelyn, whom Andrew deeply disapproves of. Andrew rescinds his dating ban in The King's Men after Aaron points out that Andrew's relationship with Neil also breaks the rules, allowing them to openly be together.
    • Nicky is in a Long-Distance Relationship with Erik Klose, his host brother from his year in Germany.
    • Allison and Seth are an obnoxiously physical on-again-off-again couple, at least until Seth's murder at the end of The Foxhole Court.
    • Kevin is in a secret relationship with Thea Muldani, a Raven alumna on the national team.
    • Trojans Laila and Alvarez are in a relationship.
  • Offing the Mouth: Subversion. Neil isn't the one who dies for his inability to shut his mouth. Seth is.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The Edgar Allan Ravens.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Andrew and Aaron are short, but that doesn't stop them from being excellent Exy players.
  • Pre-Sacrifice Final Goodbye: When Neil is kidnapped to be brought to his father, he briefly gets a chance to speak to his team before he is taken away to what he is certain will be his death. Andrew is the only one who recognizes that something is wrong, and Neil's final (or so he believes) words to him are "Thank you. You were amazing."
  • Promotion to Parent: Averted. Nicky gains custody of Andrew and Aaron after their mother's death while they're in high school, but he has little to no actual authority over either of them.
  • Pun: The Ravens' stadium is called Castle Evermore, while their underground dorms are called the Nest.
  • Public Secret Message: When he is kidnapped by his father's henchmen, Neil purposefully leaves his bag in the parking lot, trusting that Andrew and Kevin will know that something happened to him, since they know he would never leave it behind willingly.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Foxes.
  • Rape and Revenge: After Renee's initiation gang rape, she was left alone by all but one of her attackers. She learnt to fight with knives so she could eventually stop him for good.
  • Rape as Backstory:
    • Andrew was sexually abused many times while he was in foster care, beginning when he was at least seven and continuing until he left the system.
    • Renee was gang raped as part of her initiation into the gang when she was ten years old.
    • Matt had sex with some of his father's friends while on drugs at his father's parties, although he doesn't consider it rape despite being too intoxicated to consent.
    • Robin was abducted when she was five and confined by her new 'father' for six years before he found a younger replacement. The sexual abuse is not confirmed, but is implied when Andrew compares her experience to his.
  • Rape as Drama: In The Raven King, Drake, one of Andrew's former abusers, returns and rapes him again; shortly afterward, Andrew is sent to a rehab facility to come off his medication, where one of the doctors forces him to re-enact his trauma. All of this was set up as an elaborate plot by Riko in an attempt to get to Neil and get Andrew off the team.
  • Rape by Proxy: Riko orders various Ravens to rape Jean on five separate occasions for his own amusement, only stopping because Jean stopped resisting and it got boring.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Fox Coach David Wymack has a gruff, abrasive exterior, but cares deeply for his team and is willing to bend rules to help them or to make them better players.
  • Recovered Addict:
    • Matt has gone completely clean by the start of the story, although he was in bad shape the previous year due to his junkie dormmates.
    • Renee uses her Catholic faith to keep herself on the wagon, although she doesn't begrudge others their coping mechanisms.
    • Downplayed with Aaron, as he shifts from hard drugs to relatively safer cracker dust.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Ravens, in spades.
  • Removing the Rival: Kevin's hand was broken to remove him from Exy.
  • The Reveal: Neil learns that the reason his mother decided they needed to go on the run was because his father had planned to sell Neil to the Moriyamas to repay a debt.
  • Sadist: Riko really enjoys torturing others.
  • Self-Harm: Andrew's trademark arm bands hide his wrist-cutting scars.
  • Separated at Birth: Andrew and Aaron were originally both given into foster care as babies, but their mother changed her mind and took Aaron back, leaving the twins to grow up not knowing the other existed until high school.
  • Shipper on Deck: Before even Neil is aware of it, Roland picks up on Andrew's attraction and shows his support via good-natured teasing, leaving Neil very confused until Andrew spells it out for him.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Inverted; Dan worked as a stripper in high school to support herself and her deadbeat aunt.
  • The Sociopath: Subverted. Many characters, initially including Neil, view Andrew as a sociopath, but it turns out that this is very far from the truth.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Gender inverted. Wymack was in love with Kevin's mother, Kayleigh, and can't bear to lose Kevin because Kevin's all he has left of her. He also has no idea he's the father, as Kayleigh lied to him so he wouldn't give up his career for her.
  • Staging an Intervention: Matt's mother gave Andrew her blessing to help Matt go clean… no matter what it took. Andrew being Andrew, he did this by giving Matt speedballs, which wrecked Matt so badly he never wanted to do drugs again.
  • Team Spirit: The Foxes gain a lot of it as the series goes on.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Foxes have a lot of friction as they try to resolve their issues, but they still play Exy together.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. The team has a therapist—Betsy Dobson—and every member is required to visit her at the start of each season. Andrew has weekly mandatory sessions until he's taken off his medication at the end of The Raven King, although he continues to see her voluntarily.
  • Token Religious Teammate: It's not a plot point, but Renee is a devout Catholic.
  • Training from Hell: The Ravens are extremely… driven. They operate on a buddy system and are forced to do everything in pairs to promote cohesion, with outside interaction and deep interpersonal relationships being forbidden, and almost every free moment is devoted to Exy practice. It's pointed out that their lifestyle makes them more of a cult than a team.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Neil and Andrew, both in their respective childhoods and throughout the events of the second and third books.
  • True Companions: The Foxes.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Despite being the laughingstock of the league, the Foxes win every game required to qualify them for finals during the events of the book.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Happens regularly in Exy games. It's described as being like lacrosse with the violence of hockey.
  • Unstoppable Rage: When he and Neil walk in on Drake raping Andrew, Aaron immediately kills Drake with Neil's racquet.
  • Violently Protective Boyfriend: Andrew doesn't tolerate anyone harming Neil, going as far as strangling Kevin when he finds out that Kevin knew exactly how dangerous Neil's father was and never told the Foxes, meaning none of them saw Neil's abduction and torture in Baltimore coming.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Riko craves the approval of his uncle, brother and father, and believes he can only get it by becoming the best at Exy. Unfortunately, his uncle only cares about raising a perfect player, his father only cares about the money his professional contract will bring in, and his brother writes him off as a liability and shoots him dead at their first meeting.
  • Wham Line: Several.
    • Andrew admits his attraction to Neil by responding to Neil pointing out he hates him with "That doesn't mean I wouldn't blow you," which shocks Neil so much he almost falls over.
Neil: Who said 'please' that made you hate the word so much?
Andrew: I did.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Seth refuses to hit women off-court.
  • Yakuza: The main branch of the Moriyama family are a powerful Yakuza group, to the extent where Riko has plenty of influence despite having been sent to the far less important branch family.
  • You Are Not Alone: Neil has spent his entire life believing that he could trust no one, but by the end of the series this is no longer the case.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: