FINALLY! When I do Interest Inventories with my students, an overwhelming number of students mention VIDEO GAMING as a hobby. Books on the topic? Well, aside from Game Over, Pete Watson, there aren't. This book is brilliant! It's got the requisite dead parent and preteen angst, but it ALSO has a ton of video gaming references. To top it all off, it is also positive, upbeat and helpful. And has romance! Definitely my new favorite of 2016!
Brown, Gavin. Josh Baxter Levels Up
February 23rd 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Josh's mother has moved him and his sister yet again for her job, because it's been difficult finding employment after the death of Josh's father. He's not thrilled about his new school, especially after a disastrous first day that includes putting his combination lock on the wrong locker and leaving his clothes in the girls' locker room. Luckily, he is saved by Maya and welcomed into her group of friends. On the down side, though, he's managed to irritate football player Henry Schmittendorf, aka Mittens, and isn't keeping up with his schoolwork. His mother, wise woman that she is, takes away his video games, and his grades improve! He does get limited access when he has to practice for a video game decathlon that his school is hosting for a fundraiser, but he finds-- to his own great surprise-- that if he puts in the effort with his school work that he puts into his gaming, that he is less stressed and his life is happier!
The characters in this were all wonderfully drawn. Josh's escape into video games makes sense given his situation, but it's nice to see him decide that it's not a successful escape. His mother and sister are very supportive, even if he doesn't always take their advice. Even Mittens is realistically portrayed as a fellow student who is more popular and uses his position to try to make Josh's life more difficult. My favorite character is probably Maya, and I loved that she and Josh were friends and video game competitors well before he decides to ask her to the school dance.
Since I have never played video games, there were many references that I didn't get, but any young aficionado of Mario Cart and other games will love the chapter endings with Josh's "score", and delight in how big a part the games play in Josh's life.
This book just goes to prove that a book doesn't have to be boring and have an obscure topic or setting to be informative and helpful. Tween readers will love this title, and I hope that we see more books about Josh Baxter!