A virtual reality game gets too real in this import from a duo of Australian video game enthusiasts and media personalities.
Third-person point-of-view narration alternates between Ripley, a white boy, and Mei, an Asian girl, two of the best gamers in their school. They’re brought together during a school field trip to INREAL GAMES, where the students will compete for slots in the beta test of the company’s newest, yet-to-be-released game. Evenly matched, Rip and Mei concentrate solely on taking each other out when they inevitably meet in the final round—leaving both players vulnerable to their other classmates’ assaults, which knock both of them out of the competition. Their disappointment doesn’t last long, as a mysterious box from INREAL arrives at the school, addressed to the duo. In it, they find virtual reality headsets and a new gaming system—when they put it on, the characters take on a blocky look in the illustrations to show the stylized video game world. The duo must survive in the game for three days (health-bar headers are a nice design touch), so they team up to build structures and strategize against the game’s monsters and environmental threats. The game world seems too real to them (right down to the rank smell of the fart flowers), and leaving isn’t an option. Fast-paced and cleverly constructed, this book primarily serves the purpose of building stakes for the genre-appropriate cliffhanger ending.
A solid bet for the Minecraft set. (Science fiction. 7-11)