Tabak, Lawrence. In Real Life
November 11th 2014 by Tuttle Publishing
Seth is a math whiz with a complicated life-- his parents are divorced, so he splits his time between them. This works out great, because his father is on the road a lot, so Seth can skip school to play Starfare. His mother decides to move across the country to pursue her yoga interests, and Seth isn't wild about leaving, especially since he has met Hannah at the pizza shop where he works, and she's a really cool girl who just gets him. When Seth is recruited by Team Anaconda, a premier Korean gaming team, he decides that he would rather spend his time in Korea than with his mother, who will no doubt curtail the amount of time he spends playing. He finishes up the one credit of English he needs to graduate, and is on his way to Korea. His teammates are less than supportive, and it's weird being a superstar. He is known as "ActionSeth" and his face is on billboards. He does fairly well with his gaming, but when he HAS to practice all the time, it is less fun. One of the coaches on the team is interested in math, and the two talk, even collaborating on a paper for a math journal. Seth also misses Hannah, who is trying to get into the Rhode Island School of Design so she can major in photography. With all of his friends back home moving on to college, Seth has to decide if professional gaming is really what he wants to do with his life.
Strengths: So many of my readers are interested in video games, and this is a great book for them. Many harbor fantasies that they could make money playing or designing games, in the same way that the basketball players think they will some day play for professional leagues. This is for readers on the older end of the middle grade spectrum-- there is some spot-on longing for Hannah and descriptions of how Seth feels to be near her, but definitely is not inappropriate of instructive. Hooray!
Weaknesses: The tiny, tiny print and the philosophical musings show that this was meant for a Young Adult audience. 6th graders who have trouble with reading will need to stick to Game Over, Pete Watson, but the hard core, intelligent gamer boys will ADORE this one!