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#91 Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi

When Maddy's parents divorce she is forced to change schools, moving from Boston to a small town in New Hampshire. From day one, things go very wrong. Maddy is unable to make any friends, and attracts the attention of local bullies. Maddy finds a method for escape in the online game Fields of Fantasy, where she is allowed to be whoever she wants, and get back some of the power she has lost.

I picked up Gamer Girl because of its similarities to the web series The Guild. Unfortunately, it was within the first few chapters that I began to realize that the book had a lot of problems. Most of these problems stem from the fact that the author appears to be trying too hard. For example, she seems really intent on characterizing Maddy as a rather stereotypical alterna-teen. Her narration is filled with tons of name dropping, such a, clothing labels she likes (Hot Topic), books (Twlight, and various manga), music (My Chemical Romance), restaurants and so on. I realize that we don't live in a brand free world, but it doesn't take long before this begins to resemble rather clumsy product placement. It also has the unintentional side effect of aging the book very fast (published in 2008, this book was clearly written back when The Twilight Saga was a popular young adult title rather than a huge phenomenon).

It's clear from the beginning that the author wants us to feel very sory for Maddy. Unfortunately the author's way of invoking these feelings are also very over-the-top. Maddy is not just upset about her parents divorce and the unexpected move. On the first day of school, her grandmother refuses to let her out of her house in her normal clothing, and forces her to wear a big unicorn sweatshirt. Upon first stepping inside the school, she is noticed by the local “popular crowd” who do not seem to have much of a purpose beyond walking up and down the hallway and bullying new students. On top of being bullied, her friends from her old school blow her off almost immediately, as does her neglectful father. Her mother just can't understand her, and her little sister just is a brat. It's just feels like too much. Although the character of Maddy grows and develops throughout the book, the side characters don't seem to have much of purpose beyond pushing or pulling Maddy in one way or another. As a result, all of them never develop beyond stereotypes, which is disappointing.

As the book continued, there were times when I did genuinely enjoy it. The in-game moments between Maddy and Sir Leo can be fun. Unfortunately, whenever I started to enjoy the book I would become distracted by one problem or another. First off, it can be unrealistic. As someone who has dabbled a little bit in MMORPGs I know that it is highly unlikely that the first person you meet right after starting the game just happens so be a student at your school. Secondly, the writing is occasionally so awkward that I found myself groaning aloud. Finally, the book is overly predictable. Because the author never rises beyond stereotypes, you can clearly see where the plot is going from the beginning. And although it does have it's moments (it's always nice to see a positive portrayal of a gay character in YA lit), the book never really fulfills its potential. I honestly cannot recommend this to anyone, even people who are into games.

Rating: two stars
Length: 248 pages
Source: Readfield Community Library
Other books I've read by this author: This is my first

Next I will be reviewing Deathless by Catherynne Valente

xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads
Tags: xxx author last name: i-q
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