Hardcover, 416 pages
Expected publication: September 12th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Emika Chen has a tough life. Her parents are dead, she was expelled from school, her rent is long overdue, and the landlord is threatening eviction. Her gig as a bounty hunter yields no results even when she does catch the perp. She lives in a future New York in a world where everyone is addicted to Warcross, which from my understanding, is not just a virtual reality game but also an immersive experience that can be interwoven with reality with the help of VR glasses that act as a portal to the virtual world.
So basically, the entire world is hooked on virtual reality. The creator of Warcross is a very young Japanese genius named Hideo Tanaka on whom Emika has a huge crush though he might as well be in another dimension for her chances with him. Her life changes dramatically, however, when she decides to hack into the opening ceremony of the Warcross championships, a game that occurs entirely in virtual reality. Somehow (this is technical and my brain when phwar) everyone finds out her identity, she becomes famous overnight, and finds herself accepting Hideo Tanaka’s invitation to come to Tokyo to discuss the employment opportunity he has for her.
You guys, Hideo Tanaka is seriously sexy. I had to get that out of the way before I continue with this review.
Emika is an interesting protagonist. Her financial worries are very real and I worried along with her about her imminent homelessness. And, like all of Marie Lu’s protagonists, she is flawed. Actually, all of Marie Lu’s characters are flawed which is what makes them so interesting to read about. Warcross, virtual reality, and gaming are presented in very positive ways…well, mostly which is such a departure from books like, say, Feed by M. T. Anderson which viewed technology as decidedly more sinister. Everyone in Lu’s world uses Warcross, both the game and the more immersive method of interposing virtual reality over reality so for example, with your Warcross glasses on, you could see dragons hanging out in the meadows or the city pulsing with different colours and beats.
The conflict in Warcross is simple: someone is trying to sabotage the Warcross championships. Emika is hired to find out who and stop them. Along the way, there is delicious friction between Hideo and Emika, and a growing companionship between Emika and the team of Warcross players she joins under the cover of a player.
The narrative occurs at breakneck speed with twists every other chapter to tangle up the conflicts in interesting ways. With Lu, you know better than to take anything for face value so I wasn’t quite surprised by the twist at the very end but the reveal at the end definitely left me a lot to chew over.
The romance was a bit heavy and it did feel slightly drama-esque but I can live with that. The ending, though suspenseful, does not leave you on a cliffhanger to my eternal gratitude.
Warcross is an exciting start to a new series that promises to bring readers to new heights as they follow Emika, of the rainbow coloured hair, through different realities and different worlds. I enjoyed it. You might too.