By Marie Lu
The first of basically every Marie Lu story, all of which I read over two weeks. I had War Cross and Prodigy downloaded, and when I realised Prodigy was part of a series I downloaded it, and after that, I discovered another series she wrote and tried it.
War Cross is my favourite of her stories, and I was so bummed that she didn’t have a sequel written (yet). In a techno-future the likes of which my government would love to create, Warcross is a virtual reality game: you turn on your glasses and you enter another world, you can score points, fight, and every year, the best of the best enter the international Warcross Championships. Emika Chen is a young, but pretty of course, teenage hacker working as a bounty hunter – and wanting to make some quick cash, hacks into the Championships. But she accidentally glitches herself into the game and becomes an overnight sensation! She thinks she’s going to be arrested, but is instead invited to Tokyo by the creator of the game, supremely intelligent, young, and of course handsome, billionaire Hideo Tanaka. He needs a spy on the inside of the tournament to uncover a problem, and she’s the woman for the job.
Girl, even my summary sounded like it should be read by one of those TV voices, really exaggerated? This book’s so entertaining. In terms of the world it has built, it’s the most convincing in my opinion: an entire population reliant on escapist technology and their screens? I could see it. It’s ridiculously over-the-top, with this team and mystery and thrill all trying to get their screen time over the length of your typical YA book. And it’s got online battles. The characters aren’t frustrating, surprisingly? Haha, I always struggle with female leads in books like this (why, hello there my old friend, internalised sexism) but Emika wasn’t just your “orphan girl who’s struggling but so smart and pretty” – ok she was, but she was also just not stupid. She didn’t try do everything by herself and worked with her team.
Really cool diversity checks too, in unassuming ways. Like the captain of her virtual team is in a wheelchair but still lead on combat, and the two male teammates have had a steamy past oooh, and most of the main characters aren’t white. Even though Emika and Hideo have their typical love, it really takes a turn at the end, man! Like, did not see that coming! Such an easy, enjoyable, young adult book. Makes me smile just to think about it.