A 16-year-old is forced to face his shortcomings at a rehab center for video-gaming addicts.
Jaxon spends all of his spare time playing “Arcadia,” a team-based quest game. Just minutes after securing an unprecedented date with a beautiful, snarky white girl, Jaxon is packed off to Video Horizons to cure him of his compulsion to play. Readers will note the irony of the facility’s game-based therapy, in which each patient competes for enough points to complete the program. Jaxon, known at Video Horizons as Miles Prower, resolves to win 1 million points in just four days, which would send him home in time for his date with Serena. He joins a guild of apparent losers with whom—surprise!—he attains his points-winning objective but—surprise, again!—doesn’t learn anything substantive about how his overreliance on gaming brings out his worst impulses, until a late-breaking confrontation with his teammate Meeki forces him to rethink his assumptions. Meeki, who identifies as “a fat, queer Vietnamese girl,” rightly points out Jaxon’s many societal privileges as a straight, white guy. While her sharp, laser-accurate truth bombs are welcome and necessary, they’re also so overdue in the formulaic narrative that Jaxon’s redemption feels dull and unearned.
Teen readers deserve a thought-provoking, complex story about a boy who begins to understand his internalized misogyny; this is not that book. (Fiction. 14-18)