There's a lot of information in the news on how female gamers aren't really thought about, or marketed to in the video game industry, so I was interested, reading the description of this book, in the female protagonist. The author didn't touch on any hot button issues particularly, but this quick-paced story will engage even non-gamers who love an adventure.
Summary: Phoenix "Nixy" Bauer is a gamer with a plan: play hard, work hard, make money, go to college, and someday, unlike her wage-slave parents, BE THE BOSS. With her buds Moose and Chang, Nixy is not terribly politically correct, a little aggressive, a lot straightforward, and really, really good at MEEP games, thus good at her job ... which is to gank unsuspecting kids out of the MeaParadisus, Inc. world known as MEEP. MEEP is a fully immersive virtual reality gaming world where people - especially teens - spend hours building and buying, fighting and flirting. They actually go under, leaving their bodies - and their ability to hear their scolding families - behind.
Nixy's parents both work for MeaParadisus, her father in programming, her mother in scripting - so in the spirit of entrepreneurship, Nixy creates a job for herself as a freelancer who benefits from the company. Retrieving MEEP playing kids who have bought a timer hack and stayed in their own little worlds longer than the allotted four hours is a great gig, and Nixy does it for a much lower price than the official "Safe Return Specialists" from MeaParadisus. "Nixy Bauer, Home in an Hour" is her tagline, and kids -- she only works with kids now, not scary loser adults -- hate to see her coming. Who would have ever thought that one of the kids who'd hate to see her show up would be Wyn Salvador, son of MeaParadisus gadzillionaire developer, Diego Salvador. But, he's been in the MEEP for four days, and Nixy's actually been hired to drag his rich, slacking backside back to reality - and a pretty cushy reality it is, at that. After all of her negotiation with the big boss for the big bucks, what with the sharks and all, it's too bad there's no way she's going to get her "home in an hour" bonus...
Peaks: For readers who appreciate a fast-paced plot, danger from a nebulous "them," confronting one's own fears and a character who goads others and battles herself into and out of trouble, this book will work well. It will appeal to guys as well as girls who have an interest in adventure - neither have to be gamers to enjoy this.
Nixy is somewhat unlikeable -- sarcastic, prickly, touchy and not really at home with her own emotions, and in her own skin. In YA fiction, there is often a surfeit of sweetness in teen girls, and a ridiculous level of mental balance and personal maturity, so Nixy is an antidote to that. She's confident to the point of swagger, believes that she can pretty well control every thing that comes across the net, and melts down completely when she can't. I loved that touch of realism. I thought it was interesting that for all of Nixy's aggression, Wyn is depicted as much more of a lover than a fighter, which I wondered at, and would have liked to see him remain aggressive and confident as well.
Valleys: While not necessarily a "valley," per se, there were things I wished had been more thoroughly explored in the novel, things which would have created greater emotional resonance for the reader. For instance, it seemed that the author may have deliberately diminished opportunities to explore Nixy's emotions. I wanted to know whether or not Nixy was proud of, or ashamed of being a gamer, whether or not she knew any other girls who gamed, whether or not she was ever given guff for it from the boys of her acquaintance, other than Moose and Chang. As Nixy and Wyn become close, we wonder if this is her first relationship? Does she wonder what her guy friends will think of this? Does she worry about what happens in MEEP-land crossing the consciousness barrier and coming into the Real World at all? Though not crucial to the adventure, these touches would have grounded the book in the here and now a bit more, and given more depth and emotional resonance.
Nixy is sarcastic and makes cracks about people's appearance, most notably women's appearances - and she and her father seem to glory in the chaos they cause, ignoring Nixy's mother, Jill, as some kind of order-bringing killjoy. And yet, Nixy learns to respect her mother's work a bit. I wish there'd been more exploration of that - Nixy feels briefly and vaguely guilty about realizing her mother is Somebody and she's ignored her - but we don't see the aftermath of this, and her character doesn't necessarily change and grow because of her revelation that her mother's work is important.For me, the novel ended a little abruptly - Nixy has had a MAJOR wrench in her belief system and her loyalties - and I would have liked to know how it affected her emotionally. What happened was serious, and we are left hanging, wondering how it's going to affect everyone. Instead of a real conclusion, readers are given more of Nixy's nascent romance with Wyn, which felt inevitable instead of intriguing.
Conclusion: A fast-paced adventure for lovers of mystery and suspense, this book will appeal to gamers and non-gamers of whatever gender who need that one last book to escape to before school starts in earnest.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find THIS BOOK by This Author at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!