I was recently asked (and by recently I mean over a year ago) if I would be interested in reviewing a YA (young adult) book which was due for release in May 2012. Even though I don’t read young adult fiction I replied to the email anyway and said I would check it out. Here I am, writing a review, hundreds of days later, simply because I finally got around to reading it and thought it was actually pretty good.
The book is about two brothers, 11-year-old Jeremy, and 14-year-old Reggie, who are stuck in a life which they believe to be a far cry from normality – living in an unstable home with an abusive and alcoholic step father – something that sadly a lot of kids can relate to. These kids are too young to do drugs, and so their method of escape is online video games. The video game of choice for them is a first person shooter called Echo Hunt, which allows them to enter a temporary world where they can excel and be praised for their skills rather than be put down and told to take out the trash.
The ultimate purpose of the game is to find and destroy a shape-shifting cyborg mutant called Echo, which is described in the book as a ’35-foot tall extreme predator clad in impenetrable armor’ that can de-cloak and materialise ‘out of nowhere, like a nightmare of shiny, sharp, shifting, glass like scales’. Sounds pretty scary, right? Well not for Reggie, who is somewhat of a master at the game and has built a reputation among his fellow gamers for being able to destroy this virtual tyrant with ease. Word of Reggie’s skills spreads like fire and soon he receives a letter by the game’s creators asking him to meet with several other kids just as good at the game to help with the brainstorming of an update to Echo Hunt. All the while Reggie feels a strange presence around him, like he’s being followed. As each of his gamer friends mysteriously disappear one by one, Reggie soon discovers that Echo is stalking him for real and that it is a lot different when you’re not playing a video game.
The premise of the book lends itself to the idea of blurring of the lines between the virtual world and the real world and does it quite well. As it’s aimed at a younger audience its involvement with video games makes it more relatable to kids today, but then again they are probably too busy playing games to read anything that doesn’t stimulate their attention in short meaningless bursts (e.g. anything that isn’t Facebook or a top 10 list of something). Unfortunately it doesn’t help that the book is a bit too long for most attention spans roaming the planet today. If you write and market a book for kids growing up with TV, computers, internet, iPhones and games, and not so much books, it better be a quick read, which this is not. Overall I rate this as a decent book that has the potential to become popular, and hopefully might encourage the youth of today to unplug themselves from the matrix for a while and sit down and read. If I were into young adult fiction I would give this book a 3 or a 4, but since I’m not, it gets a 2/5.
* * 2 stars