A young gamer seeks a grand prize.
Jaden Stiles is a talented seventh-grade gamer who loves to best online opponents in his favorite battle game, Cross Ups IV. Unleashing his avatar’s Dragon Fire, he defeats a player with the gamertag, Kn1ght_Rage to maintain his four-month winning streak and is invited to the city’s biggest game tournament, the T3. However, he’s just shy of his 13th birthday and needs a parent’s signature to be a contender. Jaden knows better than to ask—he has hidden his gaming from his overprotective Chinese mother—and engages in all manner of deceit. He confides in Cali, the pretty girl next door, who is dealing with her own real-world crisis. What’s more, Jaden and his crew must also dodge bullies at school who want to fight in real life. Chiang cleverly uses Jaden’s gamer thinking and lessons from school to address real-world issues. The struggle of a mixed-race (white/Chinese), Westernized child growing up in a strict Chinese household is approachable, and the eclectic mix of siblings, friends, and enemies is conspicuously diverse. However, Jaden’s banter with his other first-generation buddies, which plays with and takes aim at common stereotypes, while familiar and realistic, may still elicit some winces. The text is punctuated with Choi’s savvy art, which serves up humor and karate-kicking zingers. Overall, it’s a delightful story—readers who forge ahead will be drawn in by the endearing characters and rewarded by its satisfying conclusion.
A fast-paced escapade that draws real-life parallels to gaming culture. (Fiction. 9-13)