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VIRTUALLY ME by Chad Morris


by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown ; illustrated by Garth Bruner

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-63993-053-1
Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Junior high students reinvent themselves when they attend virtual school.

Amid a pandemic (Covid-19 is implied), three alternating narrators enroll in Balderstein Virtual Junior High. But this year, remote learning packs a twist: Students attend classes via virtual reality and interact with one another by creating avatars…or disguises. Bradley Horvath is fat and, thanks to bullies, has had trouble making friends. But as pink-haired K-pop fan Daebak, maybe he’ll impress his classmates with his cool dance moves. Lacrosse star Hunter Athanasopoulos appears as himself—but his long-haired blond avatar and competitive attitude hide his worries about losing his hair to alopecia. Edelle Dahan-Miller was a popular trendsetter at school thanks to social media, but her mother insists she present herself sans filters after learning of a misogynistic student website that ranked girls’ appearances. Now unrecognizable and calling herself Vanya, who is Edelle without her friends’ admiration? When a gaming tournament forces the trio to work together, they make surprising discoveries about themselves and each other. Though the ending is somewhat pat and the characters somewhat two-dimensional, the protagonists’ evolving views of friendship and self-acceptance will resonate with readers who struggle to be—or to find—themselves. Warmly supportive parents are a welcome bonus. Edelle is Palestinian and assumed White; Hunter’s surname suggests Greek heritage; and Bradley is cued White. Secondary characters are racially diverse; one has cystic fibrosis. Illustrations not seen.

A timely, feel-good tale of learning to accept oneself and others.

(Fiction. 8-12)