by Taylor Vidmar
Welcome! My name is Taylor, and I like books. A lot. In this biweekly column I’m going to be reviewing the books I read so you can decide if you want to read them too. Some books may be old, some may be new, some may have been sitting on my bookshelf for months, collecting dust as I think “Crap,I really should have read that by now.”
You can add me on Goodreads to find out what I’m reading all year long. Now, on to the review!
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Publisher: Penguin Random House 2017
Confession: I haven’t really read a lot of sci-fi books. I generally lean towards realistic, contemporary young adult fiction, but my sister is such a huge fan of Marie Lu that she convinced me to give Warcross a try.
Warcross centers around eighteen-year-old Emika Chen, a hacker and bounty hunter who’s fallen on hard times. Emika’s world is consumed with a virtual reality game called Warcross. Somehow, she manages to insert herself directly in the middle of the ongoing international Warcross Championships and in the life of the game’s elusive creator, Hideo Tanaka, to help him prevent a serious threat to his game. Emika, a whip-smart problem-solver, repeats throughout the story, “Every locked door has a key. Every problem has a solution.” Of course, excitement, drama, and romance ensue.
The first thing that stood out to me about Warcross is that I wasn’t intimidated by the futuristic world it takes place in. Warcross and the new technology in this world are complex and fascinating, but they are not difficult to become immersed in. Marie Lu used to work as a video game artist, which is entirely evident throughout the novel. I am actually in awe of the detail and creativity in Lu’s descriptions of Warcross and its virtual reality. But I’m even more in awe of the novel’s main character, Emika.
Emika is the YA heroine of my dreams. Truly. I cannot stress enough the significance of placing a dynamic young women of color at the center of this–or any–novel. Emika is inspiring and relatable, and she never succumbs to the tropes that many young adult female characters do. Her power is in her intelligence and her coding abilities, and her plots don’t rely on her male counterparts for depth and significance. She’s awesome all on her own. “But sometimes, people kick you to the ground at recess because they think the shape of your eyes is funny,” Emika says. “They lunge at you because they see a vulnerable body. Or a different skin color. Or a difficult name. Or a girl. They think that you won’t hit back.”
Of course, Emika hits back.
Warcross is equal parts inspiring, sad, exciting, romantic, and thought-provoking. It brings up questions of the prevalence of the internet and rapidly-developing technology in our lives. Are they good or bad? For Emika, as for readers, there isn’t a yes-or-no answer to these questions. It’s complicated, and the book leaves you without definite answers (to these questions and to many others, as it seems a sequel will come eventually). Warcross is a perfect example of how capable the YA genre and its readers are at understanding and questioning difficult philosophical concepts. Through a big reveal toward the book’s ending, Marie Lu invites her young readers to contemplate the big, important questions in their lives. The last twenty or so pages of the book add a layer of complex depth that made me actually angry the book was ending.
So, Warcross is great. It’s diverse and empowering and just a really good story. Do yourself a favor and go get this book. Now leave me alone to cry while I wait for a sequel!
TW’s for Warcross: Some violent scenes.