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Warcross by Marie Lu

February 10, 2021

The online black market has exploded in activity ever since Tokyo billionaire, Hideo Tanaka, created the virtual reality world of Warcross. Each day, millions of people across the globe join the server to play, buy, sell, trade, or just see the world as a different reality.  For young New Yorker Emika Chen, this futuristic world is not just an escape from her troublesome life and infinite debt, it’s also her only source of income as she hunts and hacks to survive. Emika’s life drastically changes overnight when she hacks into the competitive Warcross Championships, with the ambitious goal of stealing a valuable power-up in front of two hundred million people. Will she succeed in paying her debt, or will the eviction notice on her apartment door reach her first? Packed with constant adrenaline, this book will leave you wishing there were more pages to read.

As readers follow Emika Chen while she finds her way through the crowded neon streets of Tokyo, they will share her feelings and thoughts, allowing the author, Marie Lu, to carefully craft a plot woven with mystery and full of unexpected turns—right up until the end.

Readers will tear through Warcross, not just because of its fast pace, but also because Lu will leave them hanging at the end of each addictive chapter: a shared trait with Lu’s popular Legend series. Lu blends text messages and depictions of Warcross life bars into her captivating plot, giving readers an exceptionally personal experience: something lacking in other examples of the science-fiction genre. 

As she dives right into the action in the present tense, and makes sure that every word on the page is a necessary part of this futuristic world, Lu succeeds in flawlessly introducing and developing new characters all while she keeps readers intrigued. The reader will find that Lu does not overwhelm with many different characters, but instead focuses on developing and giving the backgrounds of the small band of individuals. This allows the reader to have a deep connection with the characters. Just after finishing the first chapter, we know Emika’s job, how she gets around, the fact that she is poor, where she lives, and how she ended up having six thousand dollars in credit card debt.

I recommend this thrilling science-fiction novel from experience—as someone who has read many books in this genre. I have immersed myself in Warcross’s smart and intriguing plot multiple times for the sole reason that I want to be in Lu’s world again. Every science-fiction fan out there should pick up this addictive book. Trust me: Warcross will blow your mind and leave you wanting to go back and reread this ten-out-of-ten.


Penguin Young Readers Group, 353

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

February 29, 2020

For a poor eighteen-year-old orphan, Wade Watts, Oasis, a virtual universe, is the only escape from his miserable reality. But his Utopia suddenly melts into chaos when the owner of the Oasis, James Halliday, dies of cancer and puts the ownership of the game used by billions up to whoever can find an Easter egg hidden somewhere in the Oasis. Years later,Wade is too poor to leave his school planet and get back in time for class, but the whole world is shocked when his level three avatar is the first to find the copper key. As Wade takes on an almost impossible quest while racing all the gunters, he finds new friends and teams up with them to attempt to defeat all of his competition.

Ernest Cline uses first person to convey Wade’s perspective throughout the book, which helped me see his struggles and how Wade thinks when he is figuring out the cryptic riddles. I loved the way that Cline included a lot of movie, book, and video game references, including The Shining, and Joust (an arcade game). Using first person is also an effective way to describe the Oasis because readers see it through Wade’s eyes. 

The plot is suspenseful and fast-paced: Wade has to be ready to run away at any moment in reality and in the Oasis because if players die in the game, they lose all of their items and have to restart. Even though this is an action book it still will make readers emotional. I like how the title was an echo of the first words players see in the game after they have said the phrase that they use as a password. The game then says  “Ready Player One,” and players enterthe Oasis. 

If you’ve read Ready Player One already I recommend Warcross by Marie Lu. Fans of Ernest Cline would love this book because their virtual reality settings and conflicts are very similar. Ernest Cline’s first novel will leave you wanting this to be a series — and you’re in luck because the sequel is expected to come out sometime in late 2020. Additionally, there is a movie that came out on March 29, 2018, and if you look closely you might find some Easter eggs. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is in sixth grade and up because it does have swearing in it, and to readers who like sci-fi and action. I rate this book a ten out of ten because it has a lot of action: you will never be bored while reading. 


Penguin Random House LLC., 385 pages

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

February 14, 2019

Jack Whitmore lost control in the wrong place at the wrong time. One night, after stumbling away from a party, Jack is kidnapped by a man posing as a doctor, named Freddie Horvath. Freddie keeps Jack trapped in his van. The van’s windows are painted black so Jack has no idea where he is or what is happening to him, and Freddie beats him repeatedly. One day Freddie leaves for a few hours, Jack sees his opportunity, escapes, and runs home. I enjoyed how Smith continued to circle back to this reference throughout the book; it brings a sense of reality and an awareness of the past to Jacks journey.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith then takes us to England. Jack and his friend Connor are leaving their home in Glenbrook, California, to visit a boarding school that Jack’s grandfather attended. Once Jack arrives in England, he decides to go to a local pub. When he is at the pub he meets a stranger named Henry. After they share a few drinks, Henry tells Jack about a mysterious pair of glasses. He then gives Jack the glasses and says they will take him to a place called Marbury.  Marbury is a world not under, above, or even next to ours – it’s another dimension. Marbury consists in a separate reality. Curious, Jack decides to use them. He looks through the glasses and discovers Marbury and sees the bloody war that is currently taking place. As the days pass, Jack starts finding it harder and harder to put the glasses down, until the point where going to Marbury becomes an addiction. I thought that the way that Jack gets strung to the lens and he has to balance them with reality added another aspect to the book to contribute the craziness of the novel and its conflict.   

Then readers are introduced to Seth, a ghost that lived and died in Marbury that Jack mysteriously sees frequently when he looks through the lens. Except something is special about Seth: unlike all the people that live in Marbury, Seth has the ability to cross from Marbury into reality. Jack finds Seth taunting him, announcing himself with the distinctive sound of roll… tap tap tap. Jack meets two boys, Ben and Griffin Goodrich, who accompany Jack and his trip through the endless void of Marbury. Marbury is tearing Jack’s thoughts apart piece by piece; it starts to interfere with Jack’s relationships outside of Marbury: his and his best friend Connor’s interaction, and his overall time outside of Marbury. Smith impressed me by intertwining the narratives of Seth, Jack, and Connor.

I would recommend this book to anyone thirteen or above due to consistent PG-13 content. There is a sequel to this book, called Passenger. I found that Passenger was slow and was not a good read. I abandoned Passenger midway through due to the lack of these elements. But that did not limit my enjoyment of the first book, and I hope that readers try The Marbury Lens.


Feiwel and Friends, 370 pages

The Rig by Joe Ducie

April 6, 2017

Will Drake has escaped four high security prisons, but can he break free from the supposedly inescapable Rig? Being trapped miles from land, surrounded by the icy Arctic Ocean is no place for Drake, but he is determined to escape. In fact, when he first arrives at the Rig, he doesn’t feel intimidated and only sees his situation as a challenge.

Every teen prisoner is assigned a daily job, and Drake gets one of the hardest. Each day he must clean the Tubes, where the waste and sewage from the Rig goes (don’t worry, Ducie doesn’t go into too much detail about this). There are other stronger, tougher boys who also clean the Tubes and force Drake to be the one who climbs inside to clean them while the other boys lure him down with rope. Drake also meets a boy named Tristan who teaches him about how the Rig works, and they become bunkmates. When Drake gets in a fight with a very tough boy named Grey, he gets sent to the nurse’s office, where he meets Irene, a girl whose daily job is nursing and who knows some secrets about the Rig. Drake agrees to meet her one night, and she shows him something that completely changes Drake’s perspective of the Rig— and the book’s genre along with it.

I thought Ducie did a great job describing the setting. The whole book took place on the Rig, so I was able to keep track of what took place where. I got a strong sense of how scary and dangerous the prison was. Duice also developed the characters well. Tristan knows all about technology, and he understands how the Rig’s security functions. Irene likes to explore the Rig and knows its many secrets. Drake uses his friends’ knowledge to build a plan of escape. Drake does not like to make friends at first, as he accidentally killed a friend he made while escaping a prison before the Rig, but he grows to enjoy spending time with Irene and Tristan. Together they make a great team.

I also enjoyed how the book was set up. First, Drake arrived at the Rig and learned where each room was. Then, he made friends with Tristan and Irene, at the same time as he learned about his nasty job and the daily schedule. Finally, he planned escape. This effective setup resulted in a real page-turner and a fast-paced novel.

The only aspect of this book I would change is when Drake starts to play Rigball, a game like lacrosse, but with electromagnetic sticks (Tristan finds these interesting) and no rules on tackling or fighting. I found this part a bit unsettling, but with all the violent people on the Rig this was a realistic way for them to have fun.

Prepare yourself for an amazing book full of strong imagery, great character development, and an exciting plot. I would give it a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone who enjoys exciting escape stories with a fantastic setting and awesome characters.


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 308 pages

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

January 29, 2014

Little BrotherIn San Francisco, the Bay bridge is bombed by terrorists. Marcus Yallow, a senior who hacks security tech to skip school, gets caught with his friends by the Department of Homeland Security. They are detained as enemy combatants. Once released, Marcus learns that the city has become a police state: everyone is suspected of terrorism. He starts his own movement against the DHS through technology.

Doctorow’s lead was interesting: he starts with Marcus at his school and then progresses to Marcus skipping with his friends and going to the bridge. Then the bombing happens, and he gets caught by the DHS. I liked the lead, because it gave me time to get used to Marcus and Doctorow’s writing style, in an engaging way.

The theme that I found in Little Brother was about the government and our society: in the name of keeping us safe, the government can take away all of our rights. Also when we act scared and add security to make us safe, like cameras in classrooms and data-mining, the country just gets weaker and even more scared, especially when the safety measures don’t work.

I  thought that the theme of Little Brother is even more relevant now, with the NSA phone tapping and data collection. Doctorow wrote in 2008 about a dystopian world, but now, in 2014, his story of San Francisco is scarily close to the real world—only the NSA surveillance wasn’t as apparent to us, and Marcus Yallow is like a younger Edward Snowden.

I rated this book a ten. From the very beginning it was funny, but it also conveyed world issues in a realistic sense. I loved the use of encryptions and technology by Marcus, as well as facts: say one in a million people has a certain disease, and you have a 99% accurate test. In a city of one million, the test will falsely identify 9,999 people as infected with the disease, while correctly identifying one person. This is called a false positive: the 99% accurate test functions with a 99.99% inaccuracy rate.

A funny blend of history, tech, math, and politics, Little Brother is an essential novel for any young adult reader.


Tor Teen, 416 pages.

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