YA Science Fiction
444 pages, hardcover
Available now (July 2012)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine
More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?
Positive: Teen boy protagonist. Tom. Is. Awesome. Coming from a rough home life (well, no home life, really, since he and his dad don’t have a permanent residence), Tom has to survive but he wants to excel. So, when an amazing opportunity falls into his lap, he jumps at it. Tom’s got a survival instinct like no one else at the academy and, even though he wants a “normal” life, he never quite lets go of that edge.
Positive: Gamer heaven. While I wouldn’t call myself a serious gamer, I do like video games (Skyrim, FTW) and this world, this academy, is most definitely gamer heaven. With ridiculously realistic virtual reality, real-life battles deep in space, and fellow gamers to geek out with, gamer geekery rules at the Spire!
Positive: Politics and intrigue. Even though the teens are waging the virtual war, it is still a war which means military and political shenanigans. Companies sponsor the teens (someone’s got to pay for the very expensive toys, after all), meaning plenty of money is changing hands. Tom and his fellow recruits are at the center of the battle.
Wish: A chip in my head. Recruits get a chip in their head that gives them access to All The Knowledge. Of course, it comes with some very bad side effects (like people being able to hack your brain–eep!), so it’s probably a good thing this wish will not come true, at least in my lifetime.
Overall: Fabulous! I will most definitely be putting this book into the hands of my students with high praise. Oh, and even though it seems it’ll be part of a series, this book can definitely be read as a stand-alone as it has a fabulous ending.
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