Genre: YA (Sci-Fi)
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (June 13, 2011)
Source: An ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review
Two points for brushing your teeth. Ten points for keeping your room tidy. Seventy-two points for the Bioeconomic Game Design pop quiz on the ride to school in your personal FunCar. Another thirty for making every hurdle in gym class. Life is a game, unless you're not the one winning. When Gabby DeCorte, top student and reality-hacker extraordinaire, learns the truth about LifeGame, she must choose between winning and what she believes in.
This synopsis from Amazon does NOTHING for the book. Nothing. About 30 pages in to the book I realized I was reading something that reminded me of Scott Westerfield's Pretties series. I don't mean the story sounded familiar (because it didn't), but the creepy "Big-Brother-is-out-to-get-you" aspect felt similar-- which is a good thing.
The idea of LifeGame is like a job placement test for aspiring University students. The highest scorers get the best jobs, while the others get lesser jobs. Except that's a complete lie. The winners do get top jobs, but the losers disappear forever. It's not certain whether or not they get killed or moved to some top secret facility, but they definitely disappear for good. Gabby didn't realize any of this was occurring until she meets a group of refugees/outcasts called Frags. This odd group of misfits teach her the truth about her altered reality, and the truth is haunting.
The majority of this book is fast paced action. It starts off with a nice world building aspect so you can understand LifeGame and Gabby, but then it quickly gets to the heart of the plot. I was engrossed with the story line. The characters felt a little flat, with the exception of Gabby. You could tell she was conflicted about her choices and current situation. But since so much of the book was built around this team aspect, I would have liked to have known the others more. Especially Mouse and the Frags. Of course, I have a feeling that I will get that opportunity in the next book.
One of my complaints with the book (and sci-fi in general) is some of the invented terminology. I still have no idea what "debuff" means. When I thought I had it figured out, I would see the word used in a different context that threw me for a loop. Of course, that's pretty minor in the grand scheme of a novel. There was also one scene with one of Gabby's dreams that seemed to pop out of nowhere. Again, this was probably just me. I read this book pretty late at night when my eyes wanted to close, but I refused to cooperate because I wanted to finish the book.
If you're a fan of science fiction, you'll love this book. Especially if you like Scott Westerfield's Pretties series. If you're like me, and not a big fan of sci-fi (but you liked the Pretties), then you will also like this book. The action keeps the story alive and makes it hard to put down. Plus, the concept behind life being a live or die game is highly original, which makes the book all that much better.