Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Game Over

Ross, M.C. Game Over
December 6, 2022 by Scholastic Inc. 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

High schooler Kara Tilden lives in a society where the populace has become so enamored of the enticing virtual reality game HIVE that students and teachers don't show up at school. While Kara would rather read a book, she does participate in some of the games, although her boyfriend Gus and best friend Sammi play a bit more. After a run in with school bully Markus in a teacherless classroom, where she has to defend former friend Jason, Kara finds that she was stood up for her weekly Friday afternoon date with Gus. she drops in to leave him a message in the game, but then things get weird. She waits a long time for the bus, but cars are crashing in the street. She tries to help one bus driver, but when the driver drops in to the game to warn the passengers about the crash (they are all immersed in HIVE), she is not able to get back out. On the street, Kara runs into Jason again, and he has some alarming news: an update has occurred, with horrifying consequences. The update was so anticipated that almost evreyone in the world has tried to be in the game, and a huge glitch has occurred. People can't get out. Jacob shares alarming news about his own life, including that he lives at a former arcade-turned-Apiary where people check in to play the game. He knows everything there is to know about the game, and has found a back door out of it, but can't get back in. He wants Kara to help him, especially since her mother is one of the creators of the game, along with Eric Alanick. One reason Kara isn't wild about the VR game is that her mother left their family in order to work on it. She agrees, Jason patches into her feed, and she enters the game. She finds her father's office (virtual real estate is cheaper than an actual office), and embarks on a harrowing quest through the different games and levels of HIVE to try to figure out how the game has ensnared so many people, before their absence has real life consequences. 
Strengths: Note that the review centers mainly on the story set up. Most of the book involves Kara and her friends involved in the game, doing... game things. This is fantastic for people who love playing games and understand them, but since I have never played video games, my brain is not wired in a way that I could understand exactly what was going on. The world building is well developed, the mission explained thoroughly, and the details of how Kara needs to progress through the levels (especially my favorite, Terms and Conditions, which few players pay attention to!) are logical, but Ross is clearly a player of video games and uses his experience to construct a world that will be particularly appealing to other people with knowledge of video games. One of the reasons given for the widespread appeal of the game is that players are allowed to virtually experience smell, and therefore taste. There are many food sellers in the game, and none of the food has any calories! I did enjoy Kara's quest; she wasn't entirely sure she would find her mother, but hoped she would. I identified with Kara quite a bit; she's a bit annoyed at everything, and not wild about being in HIVE, but sees a job that needs to be done and reluctantly does it to save her friends and family. The MOST brilliant thing about the book is that Kara is a high schooler. She and Gus drive, they are dating, and she attends high school. This is all the veneer of teendom that middle school readers need, and also makes the book more likely to appeal to actual high school readers. Perfect.
Weaknesses: Scholastic! Paperback? Why? WHY?!?!?! At least Follett has a prebind. This should be in hardcover, absolutely. 
What I really think: I'm buying two copies to go along with other intriguing video game titles like Anderson's Insert Coin to Continue, Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson, and Zhao's Last Gamer Standing

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