I didn't go looking for this book. I actually was looking for a different book at the library, when I saw this one sitting facing out in the MG section, so I looked it over. (You know you do that, too!) I read the blurb, thought it sounded interesting and took it home. I'm glad I did! It was a great read!
The question on the front cover is provocative: Virtual reality-- or virtual suicide? The main character, Grace, finds out her big sister has hidden herself in a virtual reality (total immersion) game she was helping design. Emily, the sister, refuses to come out, knowing full well that if she stays hooked up to the game too long, she will die. The human brain isn't intended to stay immersed in the game that long. So Grace is in a race against the clock and must figure out why her awesome-at-everything sister has run away into a virtual reality game, willing to fade away. So Grace goes into the game, after her sister.
Amusingly, the game the girls are playing was intended for little girls, so it's full of pink, purple, unicorns, flowers and tea parties. The game, though, resents the changes Emily has been making to it, and is fighting back. The little cotton-candy pink sprites that spit glitter are my favorite.
The story is very clever, well-written, and fast-paced. If you enjoy gaming, you'll have fun seeing how the main characters use the gaming world to reach their goals.
It's a great fit for upper-middle grade, on up. It's listed for 10-14 as the main audience and the main character is 14. So if you are in 5th-9th grade, this book is written especially for you. I think boys would also enjoy the book, but I think it's definitely aimed at girls, especially girl gamers.
What I liked most is that this is a story about the relationship between two sisters. There are no boyfriends who feature in this story, though a bad breakup does play a small role in the back story, but the story is not about him. This has no lovesick drama, no sparkling vampires. Instead, it's about a little sister and big sister coming to grips with who they are, both alone and in relation to each other. I enjoy a good romance, but it's really nice to see girls solving problems and interacting without a guy being the focus. (Such a storyline is so rare in fiction and movies that there's even a name for it. It's called the Bechdel Test, to see if two female characters --who are actually named-- speak in a story without talking about a male. A fabulous YA book that passes the test with flying colors is Code Name Verity, which I reviewed in my older blog here.)
At ANY rate, the big sister is a smart game designer engineer who learns that running away from her problems isn't the way to deal with them, and the younger sister learns that she can do more than she thought she could, too. Grace always thought of herself as the plain, boring one compared to her high-achieving, popular sister (can anyone relate?), but now her sister needs help and Grace rises to the occasion.
It's really just a lovely story, and a fun one to read. Two big thumbs up!
Now I think I'll go find some of her other books and see if I enjoy those as much as this one!
Reviews (as shown on Amazon):