I have read many good books this year, but Gamer Girl ranks up there with Strasser's Boot Camp and Flinn's Fade to Black as one of the elite. A spirited protagonist and interesting conflicts make this one a winner.
Teen Maddy Starr has to deal with three layers of conflict in the story: her parents' divorce, a new school (and bully in mega-jerk Billy Henderson), and her obsession with Fields of Fantasy, an online video game. Maddy is the real deal as a main character. She wears her heart on her sleeve and speaks the truth, which readers will appreciate. I especially liked Maddy's comments about moving from a Boston city school to rural New Hampshire. She scoffs at the bad fashion taste of the student body when she enters her new school for the first time: "It was as if I'd wandered into a living, breathing American Eagle commercial. Shudder."
As you can tell from the above quotation, the story is told in the first person point of view. Maddy is an honest, sad, angry young lady who I sympathized with right away. She's frustrated that her parents are divorced and that she has to endure life with her unicorn-crazy grandmother (trust me, you will love grandma, though she is sadly under-utilized). Maddy is angry with school bully Billy Henderson for labeling her "freak girl," and for the fact that she will never have a chance with his strikingly handsome friend, Chad Murray. Maddy's only solace comes from playing Fields of fantasy, where she can transform into Allora, a magic-casting Elfin princess. Before long she befriends another teen player in the game, aptly named Sir Leo. Her interactions with this new friend play a crucial role in the climax of the plot and leads to an interesting twist.
Maddy isn't your stereotypical, mopey teenage main character. Her thoughts, words, and actions all jumped off the page as real. I was rooting for her the entire time. Throughout the novel, she learns to respect and stand up for herself, and learns her own personal charms are even greater than the Elfin princess she created. Give this one a try. -Mr. Lang