Sulky metal head boy meets artsy gamer girl. Awkward teenage love ensues.
When Lesh’s and Svetlana’s worlds collide—literally—in Saint Paul, Minn., it precipitates a time-honored culture clash wherein magic happens, but that’s where predictability ends. In a first-person narration that alternates between the boy in black and the girl dungeon master, Brezenoff conjures a wry, wise and deeply sympathetic portrait of the exquisite, excruciating thrill of falling in love. What might easily have been a stale retread feels fresh and lively in Brezenoff’s hands; he weaves multiple perspectives (school life, game life, dream life) together in threads that tangle into an inevitable knot, with startling consequences. The realistic dialogue, internal and otherwise, captures the uncomfortably iterative process of adolescent self-discovery as Lesh and Svetlana struggle to figure out who they are and what they stand for. The typical obstacles to true love (tempting teen sirens, parents who just don’t understand) are handily and gently overcome, and a subplot involving a jealous suitor peters out unexpectedly early. The juxtaposition of live, real-time role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons against the detached anonymity of MMORPGs, plus a playfully thoughtful exploration of gender identity and politics, gives the novel depth and heart that will appeal to audiences beyond the gaming set.
This is not the teen love story you’ve read a thousand times before. (Fiction. 14 & up)