by Vivian Vande Velde
First sentence: “My mother isn’t normally the kind of parent who comes to school and has me yanked out of class because she needs to see me.”
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Grace Pizzelli is your average teenager. Nothing special (at least nothing like her older sister, Emily, who seems to be Perfect), but nothing terrible either. Then, one day, the CEO of Rasmussem, Inc., the creator of the world’s best virtual immersion games, comes to school to pull Grace out. It seems that Emily, who was working as an intern at Rasmussem, has plugged herself into a game and reprogrammed it so she can’t come out. She only has hours left to live before the being connected to the game overheats her brain (or something like that) and kills her.
It’s up to Grace to go into the game and find a way to get Emily out.
Once in, Grace discovers that the game she was expecting (something Gruesome and Horrible) Emily to choose is not the game she chose. No, this game is all sprites and pink and princes and sparkles. Nothing deadly here, right? Well…. the longer they are in the game, the more sinister it becomes. It turns out that not everything pink is fun and good.
This was a lot of fun to read. Aside from the having to save a sibling theme (there are a lot of those this year, and I’ve only read a sixth of those nominated!), the idea of having a fluffy video game turn against its players is a creative one. And, Velde’s pacing is tight. She kept me involved an interested in how the game is going (and whether or not Emily was going to make it out) through the whole book. And even though it got moralistic (the reason why Emily plugged herself into the game were not, shall we say, entirely honorable) in the middle and again at the end, it wasn’t horribly heavy handed.
No, the only drawback to the book was that I wanted more: the world to get More Evil, the sisters to have to Endure More Trials. It was all too… fluffy in the end.
That said, call it punk gamer fluffy. Which is a kind of fluffy that I don’t mind.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I’ve been asked to make sure y’all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)