by Marie Lu
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Emika Chen is a teenage hacker who has been trying to survive as a bounty hunter since her father died and she was kicked out of school for illegally retrieving and releasing sensitive data about other students and their parents. Facing crushing debt and eviction, she uses one of her hacks to steal a valuable power-up during the opening game of the International Warcross Championships and accidentally glitches into the game itself, bringing herself to the attention of wealthy Warcross creator and tech guru, Hideyo Tanaka. Instead of punishing Emika, Hideyo offers her a job – to track down a mysterious player/person known as “Zero,” and stop him. If she succeeds, her money troubles will be over. As part of the deal, Emika is drafted into the games as a wildcard and the Phoenix Riders choose her as their first round pick. Playing Warcross as part of a team is a new experience for Emika, but she does well and earns the respect of her teammates – until her investigation gets in the way of her gameplay. Emika has another distraction as well – a flirtatious one – with her employer. Despite Warcross being an online game set in a virtual world, there are real dangers affecting real people in the real world, and by the end, Emika is just learning what exactly is at stake.
A thrilling read for those who like tech/hacker-based science fiction. There’s a nice balance of adventure-mystery-suspense-gameplay-romance throughout, and the characters are diverse. The audio edition is nicely voiced and keeps pace with the riveting plot.
Reviewed by YA Librarian