Magic Carpet Books, 2004. 978-0-15-205125-9
Synopsis: Giannine Bellisario is given a gift certificate to play a virtual reality game at Rasmussem Gaming Center by her long absent father for her fourteenth birthday. When she enters the facility, she notices protesters outside but thinks nothing of it until the CEO of Rasmussem enterprises enters her game, Heir Apparent. He tells her that the protestors have compromised the system and that the only way out of the game is to win or risk the system frying her brain. Giannine quickly learns that there are millions of ways to die, but by completing the required tasks, she might just win the game and save her life.
Why I picked it up: The premise of being trapped in a game with only a few hours to win sounded interesting.
Why I finished it: Vande Velde is the past winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award and some of her past books have been named on ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults lists, so it seemed like the story would inevitably head in the same predictable direction. However, the reader is instantly immersed in the science fiction world in which Giannine lives and the fantasy world in which she is playing a virtual game. The story does an excellent job of blending the two genres and using one within the other, much the same way we would think of ourselves sitting down to play a video game. I loved Giannine’s sarcasm and her frustration of not being able to get past the first half-hour of the game while she is deciding who she can use as an ally and who is going to kill her in one of many ways. The secondary game characters are not extraordinary, but also likeable, for the timespan within which Giannine is interacting with them. What kept me reading is wanting to know what happens next, especially after Giannine figures out her battle plan, even if it takes a while to get there. While one cannot start over in real life, ‘watching’ Giannine start over and over and over again lends to our own desires to know what comes next and our confidence in knowing who we are and the decisions we make.
Other related materials: Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde; Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde; Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde; Real Kids, Real Places books by Carole Marsh; Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by David Pinkwater; The Neddidad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by David Pinkwater; The Missing books by Margaret Peterson Haddix; Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer; The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel books by Michael Scott