A teen navigates different worlds: real and virtual, colonized and Indigenous.
In the near-future real world, Bugz’s family has clout in the community—her mom is their first modern-day woman chief, her father’s a highly admired man, and her older brother is handsome and accomplished. Socially awkward Bugz, by contrast, feels more successful in the virtual gaming world of the Floraverse, where she has amassed tremendous power. Yes, her ’Versona has a slimmed-down figure—but Bugz harnesses her passion for the natural world and her Anishinaabe heritage to build seemingly unbeatable defenses, especially her devoted, lovingly crafted Thunderbird and snake/panther Mishi-pizhiw. Cheered on by legions of fans, she battles against Clan:LESS, a group of angry, misogynistic male gamers. One of them, Feng, ends up leaving China under a cloud of government suspicion and moving to her reservation to live with his aunt, the new doctor; they are Muslim Uighurs who have their own history of forced reeducation and cultural erasure. Feng and Bugz experience mutual attraction—and mistrust—and their relationship in and out of the Floraverse develops hesitantly under a shadow of suspected betrayal. Kinew (Anishinaabe) has crafted a story that balances heart-pounding action scenes with textured family and community relationships, all seamlessly undergirded by storytelling that conveys an Indigenous community’s past—and the vibrant future that follows from young people’s active, creative engagement with their culture.
A thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots.(glossary, resources) (Science fiction. 14-18)