Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Gamer Girls: Gnat vs. Spyder

Towers, Andrea and Jauregui, Alexis (illus.)
Gamer Girls: Gnat vs. Spyder
January 31, 2023 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Natalie lives in New Jersey with her mother, who is a doctor, her father, who is a baker and does a lot of his work at home, and her much older sister Dylan, who works at an animal shelter and is thinking about moving out of the house. Nat has two good friends, Jess and Celia, but she doesn't tell them about her real passion, gaming. They are in to things like art and sports, and she is afraid to tell them that her ambition is to become a famous game streamer with a huge following. There is a girl in their class, Mel, who used to be Nat's neighbor, who does have a big internet following for her make up channel. Mel and Nat used to be friends, but drifted apart. Lucy moves into Mel's house, and she and Nat hit it off, especially since Lucy is a gamer. Nat still feels too insecure to tell even another gamer about her interests. Nat does introduce Lucy to Celia and Jess, and Lucy wants to show them how to play games. Nat still pretends she's not interested, until her lack of interest causes Lucy to have Celia and Jess over without her. Mel is giving a big party, and Nat and Lucy attend. Lucy brings her gaming console to the party, since it seems to be somewhat of a comfort when she is dealing with social anxiety, and Nat is shocked to see that other friends of Mel's are gamers, and that even people who don't game find the concept interesting. Nat gets up the courage to ask to be included in Lucy's gaming night so she can hang out with all of her friends. Will her cover as a competent gamer be blown?
N.B. This is not a graphic novel. I'm not the only reader who thought it was going to be!
Strengths: Middle school friend drama is always a popular topic, and Natalie's back and forth with her friends was well done. No one was super mean; even Mel was very friendly even though she was a little snooty about her success with her make up channel. There are some misunderstandings, but no fights, which was just a relief to see. I enjoyed the story line with how Nat felt about Dylan wanting to move out of the house, and there is some good representation mentioned briefly; Dylan is described as bisexual, and has a friend who is nonbinary. There are lots of good video game details about a fictional (?) game called Alienlord, and a fun twist about Nat's relationship to other players on the platform that is fun. There's a little social anxiety depicted, but nothing crippling. All in all, this was a fairly positive, fast paced book that had a fair number of fun spot illustrations and a good message about personal identity. 
Weaknesses: It seemed odd to me that Nat would not tell her friends that she was a gamer. My students seem to tell everyone everything about themselves, and many of them seem to play video games, so I'm not sure why Nat was so ashamed. The lesson about being "unapologetically themselves" and sharing personal details with friends will resonate with the Kidlit community. Personally, I think telling children to do this is a bad, bad idea. I'm a firm believer that one should keep personal details to oneself. I also hate any kind of game playing. Here's a fun game-- let's see if peple troll me because I'M being unapologetically myself, but it's not a popular opinion. 
What I really think: This is available in paperback, so would be a great gift for a gamer in elementary school or 6th grade. Even though Nat is in 8th grade, I'm not sure my actual 8th graders will feel this is old enough for them. It is also available in a Follettbound Glued version, and is the beginning of a series. Books with characters who play video games have been popular, and this will be a great companion to Markell's The Game Master of Garden Place, Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson, and all of the Minecraft novels. 
 Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Oversharing in a world of mean girls just gives them ammunition to personalize their attacks!

    Remember in Honestly, Katie John when she took a bite of lipstick? I think that was the first "friend drama" book I read although I'd already lived through a few tough situations.