USER UNFRIENDLY

Trapped in a pirated version of a simulated-reality game program, a group of friends nearly have a real tragedy. Arvin plus his mother and six of his ninth- and tenth-grade friends awake in a land of magic and orcs, pledged to rescue a princess. Actually, they're asleep in the basement of computer- whiz Sheldon, who has pirated a quest program. At first, their game follows familiar lines as characters wield their powers to defeat the enemy. Then trouble looms: the program has bugs, while Mom shows signs of a real-world illness that incapacitates her game character and threatens her life. Even so, there's no choice: the game goes on. Continually skirting disaster, the troupe defeats a mock princess, releases an ensorcelled chief mage, and is finally allowed to return home—just in time, since an aneurism in Mom's brain is near breaking. Simulated reality, first seen in adult ``cyberpunk,'' is becoming a trendy plot device in YA fiction (see also recent books by Gillian Rubenstein and Monica Hughes). This succeeds better than most: though there is little development of the technology, the details are ingenious, and having the teen personalities show through their game-character facades is entertaining. The beginning here does hold more promise than is ever realized; Mom's illness and the computer bugs prove to be mostly distractions. Still, the adventures are vivid and diverting. (Fiction. 12+)*justify no*

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-15-200960-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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