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World Saver

What begins as a YA adventure becomes a stellar rumination on the individual's place in the world.

Goldstein, Neal WORLD SAVER

In this YA sci-fi debut, a teen visits his aunt's spiritual retreat to curb his video-gaming only to learn his favorite game is more real than he imagined. Eight-grader Cypris Orbick Jr. lives in Dayton, Ohio, and spends most of his time logged into the gaming website World Saver. His mother, Dolores, loathes the game, which involves the behind-the-scenes saving of warring alien civilizations. She hopes her son will grow up to be a true man, like his test pilot father, Cy Senior. He died during a crash in New Mexico, and his friend Trent Cosgrove has become his son's stepfather. When summer begins, Dolores puts Cy on a bus to his Aunt Skyler's home in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, where she teaches yoga. There, with no computers or wi-fi available, Cy will hopefully dry out from his obsession (he is World Saver's top-ranked player, after all). Cy, however, smuggles in his laptop and plans to investigate the clues that he saw in a World Saver bonus video. The video, featuring a gray man in a car somewhere on Route 30, hints at the placement of an glass orb hidden in the real world. If Cy can find the orb, World Saver Studios will hire him as a game designer. For his debut, author Goldstein covers terrain that fans of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One will appreciate. Though instead of relying on pop culture references, Goldstein captures our attention with a genuine flair for the madcap. He concocts the Space Ranch, a theme park centered around the alien realms of World Saver, and even a reclusive park founder, Bud Brownheel. After clues lead Cy into the desert, a UFO encounter propels the narrative into stranger skies. In the second half, Goldstein sends Cy on a steep arc toward maturity, where he makes life and death decisions not for himself, but for others. He also learns that “Art, like love, is dedication,” [201] as he meets a poet, a painter, and a mechanic (among others) whose works imbed them in the wider human experience.

What begins as a YA adventure becomes a stellar rumination on the individual's place in the world.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5229-9422-0

Page Count: 306

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2016

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Awards & Accolades

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This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Any moral that may be gleaned from the tangled narrative is buried in confusion. (Fantasy. YA)

A convoluted fantasy offering a series of morals about justice, mercy, human treatment of animals and human treatment of other humans.

A cluster of animals have been educated by a World War II veteran and his activist wife. The animals, a now-vegetarian mix of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, live in harmony on Cloudburst Mountain. Following their scriptures (the Bible, Animal Farm and judgments such as “Humans Are Evil”), they plan for the day when they will kill all the humans and rule the world. The tale follows the adventures of their coyote prophet Justice and human ally Cody as they travel the United States preparing other animals for “The Rebellion.” Though they meet mostly repellent, violent humans and mistreated animals, they also encounter enough well-meaning, victimized humans to make Cody question his alliance with the cause of human genocide. Meanwhile, the grandson of the original human missionaries to the animals threatens the entire endeavor as he plans to mine the mountain for uranium. Ultimately, the animals succeed in murdering the vast majority of the human race, giving them hope for a shining new day. This overly complex tale is dense with purple prose and far too many extraneous characters–for example, Gordon “Raindance” Fell, the Shadow Shaman of the Pokihallah tribe; and Forest Victor, who appears for the first time late in the story, saying of his never-mentioned-before dead wife, “if only her hatred of the evil deeds of the baby seal killers hadn’t drawn her and her cameras into a combative stance.”

Any moral that may be gleaned from the tangled narrative is buried in confusion. (Fantasy. YA)

Pub Date: June 21, 2006

ISBN: 0-595-39274-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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