The Basic Premise:
In the near future, teenagers Rex, Tunde, and Painted Wolf are friends, despite the fact that they live halfway across the world from each other (California, Nigeria, and China respectively), and each is a genius in their own way–Rex with software, Tunde with hardware/general MacGyver-ing, and Painted Wolf in uncovering government and corporate corruption. They are all invited to The Game, a place where 200 teens will compete for a select few spots to become part of the future of technology and the world. But something more dire is at afoot, and no one will be able to predict what happens next…
The Characters, Plot, Setting, and other Important Book Things:
So…the parts that I loved. The printing of the book is very unique. Each page a is a little different, which graffiti and pictures in the margins that help differentiate between the different narrators. There are also graphs, pictures, screenshots, and texts as part of the narrative, which make it a really interesting book, visually.
It was also great to see a deeply multicultural cast. The book switches between the PoV of the three main characters, and each has a unique voice that is influenced by where they grew up. It’s also nice to see science and math taking the stage of a book. These are things I desire to see in more books.
However, other than the three main characters, every other character in the book came off as very two-dimensional and background-y. Considering the book is about the best and the brightest from around the world, I would have expected more of them to be more memorable.
This book also had a pacing problem. The biggest issue with pacing being that entire book felt like a set-up for the next book. In fact, over half the book feels like basic premise set-up. Gout fleshes out characters, explains cultural backgrounds, and that’s all well and good, but by the time we get to the actual plot we’ve been waiting for (the Game), the book is already halfway over. The Game makes very little since but goes…somewhat quickly as we cut hundreds of extras in the background that we never even see. Then the Game ends and the ending comes very quickly despite not actually tying up any plot lines. None.
Can I just say, the back of the book says “Trust no one. Every camera is an eye. Every microphone an ear. Find me and we can stop him together.” And this doesn’t come up in the book until the last page. And then it just seems to be there because it sounds cool, not because it has anything to do with what’s happened in the previous 300 pages.
The Game was also…not what I was hoping for. It was a few very long tests that seemed remarkably unfair to the majority of people at the Game (geniuses in all fields, but the tests required an incredible aptitude with both coding and mechanical engineering, something that our protagonists were fortuitously gifted at, but put almost everyone else at an automatic disadvantage).
This was like a wanna-be summer blockbuster in book form. It technically had a lot of things I wanted and checked off a lot of boxes (chases, intrigue, a possible kidnapping, genius teens from diverse backgrounds, corrupt politicians, etc), but despite that, the whole thing felt very underwhelming, even though it felt like it was trying to be a big hit. But it’s a fast, entertainment-based read that will appeal to a lot of teens, even if it didn’t impress me personally.
The Rating: 3 stars