Soldier’s Scoundrel

y450-293

Bibliographic Information

Audiobook
Paperback $6.29
Hardback
Kindle $1.99
Associated ISBNs 9780062642493
9780062642486

Readers Annotation

Jake and Oliver try to solve a mystery and resist each other.

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 3P

This is a really well written regency romance, and the characters are well thought out.

This is a LGBTQIA+ book, that means a lot of people don’t want to read it.

Summary

Ok, SPOILERS

London, nebulous Regency time after the Napoleonic Wars. Jake is a “scoundrel.” He helps ladies. He lives above his sister Sarah’s dress shop. He gets a gentleman caller, even though he doesn’t see gentlemen. The man is good looking. This man is Oliver the son of a duke. Jake recognizes him from a time when he saw the other man in a compromising situation with another man. Oliver wants to know what Jake did for his sister. Jake won’t tell her. His sister tells him he has a lady to see him. Jake tells Oliver he’s welcome to sit and watch. The woman tells Jake that some letters from an old beau have gone missing from her jewelry box. She needs to get them back before her husband sees them. Jake tells her he will help her, but that he may not tell her anything and that he’ll do it however he sees fit to proceed. She agrees. Oliver, doesn’t like how Jake is approaching this situation, he believes the lady should have gone to the police.

He interviews her ladies’ maid, who gives him the lowdown on the lady and her husband (she’s new money, he’s from the gentry, they got caught in a compromising position forcing him to marry her). Jake decides to break into the lady’s home to see what’s what.

Oliver makes friends with the lady’s husband at his club. He also spends a lot of time thinking about Jake’s questionable methods and straddling of the moral line.

Oliver’s sister’s sister-in-law calls on Oliver to tell him that his brother-in-law is back and to get Jake. Oliver waits for Jake at Jake’s place. When Jake comes back Oliver fusses because he’s hurt. Oliver eventually remembers to tell Jake about the brother-in-law. Jake arranges for a man to watch the sister and brother-in-law while he finds someone to take care of the problem.

Oliver and Jake travel to the country to track down leads for their case (flirting all the way). Oliver has trouble taking off his boots at the first way station they stop at and Jake happens to come in and helps him. Sexy-times ensue. When they get to their destination, they hook up again. They question the ex-beau’s new wife, and the former governess. More sexiness.

Oliver decides that they should stop and visit his father. Oliver’s father then tries to malign Jake’s name. Jake gets summoned because the brother-in-law is dead.  Oliver feels torn.

Oliver goes to a party being thrown by the lady in question. Jake goes as his valet (and is not happy about it). Jake puts everything together and works everything out and gets shot for his trouble. Oliver and Jake break up because Jake won’t ruin Oliver’s reputation.

Oliver decides to ruin his reputation with Georgie’s help, in order to be with Jake. Jake catches wind of this plan and stops Oliver from completely ruining himself, saying he’s just low enough on the social ladder for them to associate with each other. 

They buy a flat together.

The end.

Evaluation

Oh man, Regency Romances are a semi-secret favorite of mine. They’re like the epitome of Harlequin romance. This is a gay Regency Romance. The combination of two things I really love. What could possibly go wrong?

I’ll admit it, the only negative comment I have about this book is that it can be a little slow sometimes and the juggling of the romance and the mystery can get in the way of each other. There were a few times where the romance between Oliver and Jake was heating up and the plot would interrupt and vice versa and it would frustrate me (sometimes in a good way).

The plot isn’t too terribly unique, but it is a nice little mystery that drives the story quite well. There’s a lady in trouble and our dashingly handsome (and sarcastic to boot) hero needs to help her out (this time by breaking and entering, questioning people and definitely not falling in love with her). Then you have the beautiful brother of one of the women who has hired our hero, who is initially trying to save her honor. Things happen, boys fall in love.

I like that the author didn’t shy away from the fact that this romance was definitely NOT COOL in regency days. She never lets the reader forget that even though these boys are in love, that society just won’t let them be together (openly).

Jake was definitely my fave. He has his eyes on the prize (both solving this case, and winning over Oliver for a roll in the hay). He’s pretty down to earth, and understandably wary of “gentlemen.” He was sarcastic, badass, and just vulnerable enough to let Oliver in (no matter how many times the man was an idiot).

Oliver is just as flawed a character. Fighting to stay in a black and white world after being in a very grey war, and having to realize that the world isn’t black and white no matter how much we wish it to be so. He’s pretty haunted by his past, and fighting his nature because he’s in love with Jake.

The supporting cast is pretty interesting as well, the sisters (both Jake and Oliver’s), the evil brother-in-law, Georgie, Oliver’s dad, and the married couple at the center of the investigation. I’m glad to see that some of these side characters are going to get their own books.

The setting is, naturally, London. I like the way the seedier side is shown, and the contrast to the more upper class end. At odds with both sides of London was the countryside. Each setting had their own flavor and feel, which really worked for the book, clearly delineating between different parts of the story.

This was a good romance, one that I enjoyed even though there were some slower parts. The characters were interesting, and I would be interested in reading some of the other stories in this universe.

Genre

GLBT

Regency (Historical) Romance

Readalikes

Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries

Significance

M/M romance published by mainstream publisher.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Discuss Oliver’s way of coping with reintegrating into society (Black & White outlook).

Discuss Jake’s soft spot for ladies.

Discuss being LGBTQIA+ in Regency times.

Author’s website

Cat Sebastian

Awards

none

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Why I Chose It

It’s a legit romance novel (with the cliche cover but with 2 dudes) from a legit publisher (Avon Impulse, which traces back to Harlequin itself). I’ve never seen a legit published, not horribly covered m/m novel before. (Don’t get me started on crappy covers for LGBTQIA+ books)

Other Information

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A Darker Shade of Magic

 

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $25.96
Paperback $16
Hardback $15.46
Kindle $9.99
Associated ISBNs 9780765376459
9780765376466
9781466851375

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 4P

This book is so good. It deserves that 5Q its so well done, and the only reason that its a 4P is because I know there are people out there who don’t like Fantasy.

Readers Annotation

The balance between Londons is out of whack and only one man can save them all.

Summary

I don’t know if I can do this book any justice, and I really want to avoid the SPOILERS, so this will probably be a less detailed summary than usual. But for funzies here’s what V.E. Schwab had to say about her own book on Goodreads (which is super accurate tbh):

“–Magic

–Cross-dressing thieves

–(Aspiring) pirates

–Londons (plural)

–Sadistic kings (and queens)

–A royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness

–More magic (blood magic, elemental magic, bad magic, etc. etc.)

–Epic magicky fights scenes

–Angst!

–And coats with more than two sides”

So Kell is one of the only Antari left (magician, two different eyes, able to travel between worlds). He works for the Red throne (obvs in Red London). He bops between Red, White and Grey London giving messages from monarchs to other monarchs.

SPOILERS?!?!

So, Kell has this habit of bringing things from other worlds back to Red London (which he’s not supposed to do). Rhy finds out and yells at him. Kell lives in the Red castle with the royal family and is a “family member”…. but Kell knows he’s not really family (except to Rhy, who loves Kell to death and whom Kell would do anything). 

So Kell goes to White London, which is ruled by these creepy tyrants (the Dane twins) and their pet Antari Holland. They’re clearly up to something and after drugging Kell they convince him to take something with him to Red London.

This something turns out to be something from Black London (the London that went magic mad and tried to take over all the Londons… its supposed to be dead and gone).

Kell ends up in in Grey London, Lila steals the rock from Black London. Hijinks ensue, and assassins come for Lila and Kell. The two team up and Kell ends up taking Lila with him back to Red London. They split up, as Kell needs to talk to the royals about what the Danes are up to.

Turns out, the Danes have taken over Rhy’s body, Lila infiltrates a party and Kell tries to rescue his brother. Rhy dies, Kell freaks out and uses the Black rock to bind their lives together, giving life back to Rhy. The catch is that whatever happens to one of them will happen to the other. Kell doesn’t care, he needs his brother.

Kell and Lila go to White London to take on the Danes (and Holland).

Evaluation

Look guys, this is my new favorite book.

I heart this book with a passion. So much so that I bought the whole series in hard cover after I got through with this one.

This is the best.

I feel like I’ve said that before (coughtReadyPlayerOnecough), but this is my JAM!

Fantasy, Urban Fantasy (any Fantasy) is right in my wheelhouse. After finishing the (admittedly awesome) Readers Advisory class that started this blog, I knew I wanted to read something I KNEW I was going to love. This was on my list. It took forever to get to it (what with the whole graduating/final portfolio thing that was the first half of this year), but when I did… Whoo boy!

… Insert all the Fangirling here.

It is so hard for me to look at this book objectively. I just love it so much.

The characters are great. Kell is such a compelling lead. He is trying to maneuver through all this political drama, he has issues with his family, and then he picks up this thief. Speaking of the thief in question: Delilah Bard. Lila is my new favorite heroine. Her personal motto: you can’t have too many knives (after all, who knows how many bitches you may need to stab?). She’s a badass teenager with trust issues (from living on the streets) but she is such a witty girl. These two are a winning pair. Look, most of the focus is on them (character development-wise), at least in this book. But V.E. Schwab really gives you a feel for every other character in these two’s orbit. He wasn’t in it much, but I found myself echoing Kell in the feeling of: protect Rhy at all costs (oh my precious little bi baby… you’re too good for this world).

The three main worlds are completely different, and V.E. Schwab does a great job differentiating them. Grey London is so drab and magic-less and boring. Red London is bright and vibrant and full of magic. White London has that feeling of of the life draining from it (literally) and the people are just starting to go off the rails.

I don’t even remember what else I’m supposed to analyze, I’ll have to come back to this some day with a clearer head.

Point is this: if haven’t already, READ THIS BOOK!!!!!

Genre

Fantasy

Historical Fantasy

Readalikes

We Will All Go Down Together by Gemma Files

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Significance

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Author’s website

V.E. Schwab

Awards

Library Journal Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

LibraryReads Favorites: 2015

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Booklist

Why I Chose It

This sounded like a really neat book with a premise right up my alley (plus it had a pretty sweet cover).

Other Information

Honestly Ben

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Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $10.51
Paperback
Hardback  $10.58
Kindle $10.99
Associated ISBNs 9780545858267
9780545858311

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

Readers Annotation

Self-discovery is rarely easy for a straight boy in love with a boy.

Summary

Ok. Here we go.

We’re back at Natick, but this time with Ben.

SPOILERS!!!

Ben has spent the winter break at home with his family. He gives advice to his brother that if said brother wants to hang out with Julie (the girl everyone calls “dumptruck”) that he can do that.

Back at Natick, things are weird. He and Rafe are not talking, and Ben feels that loss and the loss of Toby and Albie. However, baseball season is starting. Ben plays for the team and is good but quiet. He gets nominated to be the team leader (I swear there’s a better term for this that I just can’t remember) and wins the vote. 

Ben has also been chosen to receive the Pappas Award slash scholarship, named after a former student who enlisted in Vietnam.

Ben meets a girl named Hannah, and the two are intrigued by one another. They trade numbers and agree to meet up.

Ben is struggling in Calculus. He doesn’t really understand, and his teacher is no help when he tries to talk to her about it (“you just need to study harder”).

So Ben starts dating Hannah, studying Calculus like crazy, tries to lead the baseball team, and eventually reconnects with Rafe. They decided to try being best friends again. There are just some things they can’t talk about: Rafe’s boyfriend J (omg forgot his name) and Ben’s girlfriend Hannah. Ben tells Hannah about the Rafe debacle. She’s cool with it.

A spring fling is thrown. Ben takes Hannah, Rafe takes J. J breaks up with Rafe. Ben feels like he needs to comfort his friend and asks Hannah if its ok. She’s not super on board with the idea but tells him he can but then she’s leaving. So Ben goes to comfort Rafe, but as he watches Hannah leave he thinks maybe he shouldn’t have made this choice. The boys go to the beach and yell at the sky.

When Ben next talks to Hannah she’s pissed at him. She doesn’t like that Ben chose Rafe over her. Ben doesn’t totally understand what she’s saying and she gives him an implicit ultimatum: Hannah or Rafe. Ben keeps putting off calling Hannah after this conversation because he doesn’t want to have the talk with her about what he’s feeling. In the end, Ben chooses Rafe and breaks up with Hannah.

Ben has been learning about Peter Pappas (the boy the award is named after) and has discovered that he was anti-war. He tracks down Peter’s sister and learns that Peter enlisted in order to keep his father’s love/approval. Ben draws a lot of parallels with Peter Papas.

Ben is still struggling in Calculus.

Ben and Rafe go out on a date (to a coffeehouse poetry slam) and spend the night together. The day after Ben and Rafe are splitting up and Rafe says “I love you” but Ben doesn’t say it back.

So naturally, Rafe needs to have a talk with Ben (right before his Calculus test that his award is riding on) about how he can’t be with someone and not be with them again. This sends Ben into a depressive spiral. He goes to Mendenhall (one of the baseball guys) and gets the answer key to the test. After he cheats, he ends up in a depressive funk and doesn’t leave his room for a day.

Ben and Rafe eventually talk, and Rafe realizes he was perhaps pushing Ben too far too fast.

Ben’s award speech is more a confession of how he cheated to get his award, and the truth about Peter Papas than anything. Ben gets suspended. His father is “embarrassed to be his father.” Ben also confesses to loving Rafe. Ben’s dad tells him that Carver men are straight and that if he’s not straight then he’s not a Carver (and no son of his) and that if he may never talk to Rafe again.

Ben goes home with his family, Rafe goes to Boston to wait for his flight the next day. Ben confronts his father, and it goes about as well as  you’d expect (not well at all). So Ben decides to take Rafe up on his offer to go to Colorado together and leaves his family behind.

Rafe’s parents are awesome (though don’t get that Ben isn’t gay/bi). Ben doesn’t know what his life is going to be, but at least he has Rafe.

Evaluation

I’ve got to say, I think I liked Openly Straight better. I really wanted to read this one, but knew that I had to read that one first. I’m pretty sure I just found Rafe and his situation more relatable than Ben’s situation. I mean, this is one of my favorite tropes (OMG I’m totally not gay but I have feelings for this guy!?!!!?), but… I don’t know. I just think due to Ben’s character and his general separation from his own feelings, that the book left me kind of not feeling it.

Not to say that this wasn’t a good read, because it was. This just wasn’t my favorite read.

So, I did like that we got Ben’s perspective on things. Being able to see into his head was a really nice change of pace. His character got more fleshed out than he was in Openly Straight. We also got more of Rafe, and it was really interesting to see him through Ben’s eyes, it gave him some extra depth that he was perhaps missing before.

I liked that we got some more Toby and Albie (though more the former than the later). They weren’t super fleshed out in Ben’s tale, but Toby’s story arc was a nice counterpoint at the end of the story.

I really enjoyed (?!?) getting Ben’s perspective on the baseball dudes (and his confusion on how interacting with them works). Sure, none of them was really fleshed out, but they really didn’t need to be.

Natick, of course, was still as vague as ever. I mean, I don’t need all the minutia of school life (oh god please no), but I sometimes feel it was glossed over just a little much for me. And really, I wonder about the rules on leaving campus…

The point being, I was a little let down, and a little disconnected, but it was still a nice story. The ending is super open ended, and lord knows how Ben’s life is going to turn out, but it wasn’t a bad place to stop the story.

Genre

LGBTQIA+

Realistic Fiction

 

Readalikes

What’s in a Name by Ellen Wittlinger

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

 

Significance

Straight boy in love with another boy and struggling with it.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Let’s talk about Ben’s dad and his relationships with his family.

What do you think of Ben’s conclusion on his own sexuality?

Were there any parts of this book that seemed unrealistic?

Author’s website

Bill Konigsberg

Awards

none

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

 

Why I Chose It

Honestly, I wanted to read this one but figured I should start with the first book first and then get to this one. I’m kind of a sucker for the trope (straight with one exception).

Other Information

There is a possibility of this book bringing up Bi Erasure. Be aware that this is a big thing for Bi people, also be aware that the author has written a blog post in response to this. I happen to agree with him (that for Ben, he’s not Bi, he’s just attracted to one boy), but I can see why there would be controversy and why some people could be upset. Be aware of your own biases, and understand that unless you are a Bi person yourself, you might not truly understand where they’re coming from and why they’re upset.

Also be aware that some people may not be happy that the author never really names or addresses the issues that come up with Ben’s father (Abuse?).

Openly Straight

openlystraight_cv

Bibliographic Information 

Paperback $8.36
Hardback $11.84
Audio CD $25.57
Kindle $5.99
Associated ISBNs 9780545509893
9780545798655 — Paperback
9780545509909
9781480683051 — Glued Binding
9781520066813 — CD

Rating (VOYA)

3P, 4Q

While the quality of this book is good, and its well written (leading to its 4Q), this is definitely not a book for everyone since there are LGBTQ+ (mainly the G) in this book which gives it a 3P.

Readers Annotation

Rafe doesn’t want to be the “gay” kid anymore and makes a dramatic decision in order not to be.

Summary

Ok. So Rafe is an openly gay kid back in Colorado, but he’s gotten tired of first being identified as the GAY kid. He wants people to just think “Rafe” and not “Gay Rafe.” So he decides to go to a boarding school on the East Coast and go back in the closet (though he doesn’t let himself think about it that way).

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

So, Rafe’s new roommate is an overweight, strange boy named Albie. He’s sort of a survivalist (but not really). Albie’s best friend is the openly gay Toby (who is super weird). After Rafe gets all moved in he gets drafted into a tag football game (he’s never played before) and thus gets drafted into the “jocks” group. They’re all kind of shallow (and exactly what you’d expect from jocks) except for Ben and Bryce.

Rafe is in a creative writing class and his teacher keeps telling him there’s something he’s not quite getting to in his writing and reveals that Rafe’s mother had told him all about her gay son Rafe because he’s the teacher associated with PFLAG. He gives Rafe an assignment to keep track of how things are going with not being openly gay.

Rafe gets close to Ben, but he also gets close to Albie and Toby. He finally starts to mend bridges with his old BFF Clare Olivia in Colorado, though she really doesn’t understand what he’s doing. 

One night, after botching a play in baseball, Bryce doesn’t come back to the dorm. Rafe is the one to realize it because he was playing “Scanner Pong” with Albie and Toby (a completely stupid game where they listen to a police scanner and drink when certain words are said). Rafe goes to Ben to see if Bryce is in their room. When Ben can’t find Bryce, the boys (Rafe, Ben, Toby, and Albie) sneak out in order to try and find him before he misses curfew and gets expelled from school. After a long night of searching, they don’t find Bryce. They get back to the dorm and find out that Bryce was taken to the hospital. 

Bryce, who suffers from depression, leaves school to try and get better. Ben and Rafe start to bond.

The boys go to Boston and terrorize some waterfowl. 

When parents weekend comes around, Rafe must tell his parents about his current predicament of being back in the closet. They don’t really understand, but agree to keep his secret. They bond with Ben and keep hinting to Rafe that he likes him.

Rafe invites Ben home with him for Thanksgiving break. Ben agrees once Rafe says he’ll pay for his plane fare. The boys have a discussion about the budding romantic feelings between them, calling their feelings agape love (transcendent). They hang out with Clare Olivia and go skiing. They also end up necking in Rafe’s room the night before they head back to school.

Ben is weird after that, distant and confused. Rafe is also confused and starting to realize he needs to tell Ben the truth. He’s also starting to realize he doesn’t care much for the jocks that he’s been hanging out with. 

Late one night, Rafe wakes up and feels compelled to go to Ben. He knocks on the door and is let in. The boys spend the night together. After, they talk. Ben opens up about not being able to be with Rafe because he feels like he can’t do it, and he’s adamant about being straight. Rafe tells Ben that he’s gay, and has been the whole time. Ben gets understandably angry, upset that they weren’t on the same page the whole time.

Rafe and Ben’s friendship falls apart. Rafe bonds more with Albie and Toby, and re-comes out. He ditches the jocks and joins PFLAG and meets new people.

Evaluation

This was a nice read. After finishing Falling Angel, I needed a light fluffy piece. My default genre is LGBTQ+, so this was right up my alley. Honestly, I only read this one because I wanted to get to the next one: Honestly Ben (review coming!), but this was a nice little side-read.

Oh Rafe. He’s a nice kid, and I genuinely like him, and I could understand what he was trying to do but… oh honey no. His journey back into the closet and finding his way out again was truly compelling. He did discover things about himself that he hadn’t been able to while the “gay kid,” but it came with a price. The longer this experiment wen on, the more Rafe found himself constricted by what he couldn’t say.

At the end of it all I knew it was all going to blow up in his face. And lo, it did. I can’t wait for the next one (OMG, do Rafe and Ben make up? Can they be friends again or more? Or will they languish apart never being able to reconcile what happened?)!!

The characters were pretty great. You got a feel for the jocks, just a little bit (really their details were just as shallow as they generally were) before we got to the new friends. Albie and Toby are adorable little nerds. Albie is survivalist-ish and a slob, and Toby is gay and just a bit strange. They were a lot of fun and became such great friends for Rafe. Ben was awesome. He was trying to fight labels as much as Rafe, but did it in a much better way. And Mr.  Scarborough was great (even though we only really see him in his comments in Rafe’s journal entries), he really helped point out to Rafe that he should be thinking about things/feelings.

The boys’ school wasn’t super detailed. It wasn’t really important to have a detailed school. We were told what we needed to know (dorms, crazy coach, East Coast) but not much else. The setting wasn’t what was important about this story.

I really believe that this was a believable little story, with some great thinking moments and a great set up for conversation starting. I for one, quite enjoyed myself.

Genre

LGBTQIA+

Realistic Fiction

Readalikes

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jayne Robin Brown

What’s In a Name by Ellen Wittlinger

Significance

A discussion on labels. This book talks about labels and how we use them, but doesn’t offer answers, only the beginnings of the conversation.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think of Rafe’s experiment in not being labeled “gay?”

Let’s talk about Ben.

Who was your favorite character?

Author’s website

Bill Konigsberg

Awards

Notable Books for a Global Society: 2014

Rainbow List: 2014

YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults: 2014

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Why I Chose It

I just really wanted to read a fluffy LGBTQ+ story and the second book caught my eye, so naturally I had to read this one (the first one) first.

Other Information

Ready Player One

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $22.74
Paperback $16
Hardback $19.07
Kindle $9.99
Associated ISBNs 9780307887436
9780307887443 — Paperback
9781524755614 — Paperback
9780307887450
9781451752335 — Glued Binding
9780606264129 — Glued Binding
9788466421140

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 5P

Readers Annotation

Whoever wins the game will change the world

Summary

Welcome to the Dystopian Future (again)! This time its because people used up the fossil fuels (and are idiots) and corporations suck. The internet/web/Oasis is where people escape/work/go to school. There’s corporate slavery (indentured), and tons of espionage.

At the beginning of our story, the Oasis is free for everyone to access. When the creator (Haliday) dies, he sets up an “egg hunt” in order to find the successor to his empire. The game is simple: find the three keys, open the three gates, pass the tests and get the egg. There are individuals trying for the egg (“gunters”), groups of gunters (clans) and IOI (an evil corporation trying to win and charge people for access).

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Highlight to read.

Our main character is on Wade Watts is a teenager living in the stacks, a ghetto where trailers are literally stacked on top of each other. He lives with his aunt and her boyfriend and several other tenants. Wade is a “gunter,” and spends all of his free time looking for the egg. Wade goes to school online. Wade sneaks out of his trailer and climbs down the stacks daily to hide away in a broken down car in a junkyard to go to school. He heats his space with a bike powered heater. Wade has one friend: Aech. Aech is a professional gamer and travels, and is a high ranking avatar.

Wade has an epiphany one day in Latin that gives him an idea on where the first key is. He gets a pass from the school to travel to the area on the school planet where he’s sure the key will be. It’s a skull shaped grove and he goes through the cave of traps (insert all the 80s things here that I can’t remember) until he reaches the end. It turns out that the game he needs to play is the game Joust (80s game). He wins eventually and gets the copper key. The copper key has the hint for the copper door. 

Just after he finishes, Art3mis shows up. Wade has a crush on her (she’s a geeky gunter blogger). She asks if he’s failed the Joust. He says he has. They chat for a while, Wade hiding the fact that he’s beaten the gate until Art3mis checks the scoreboard to find his avatar name (Parzival). She gets pissed and keeps him in the cave until all the traps have reset. Once free of the cave, Wade gives a hint to his friend Aech on where to find the Copper Key.

Wade continues on to where he knows the copper key to be: on a planet full of recreations of Haliday’s hometown. He goes to Haliday’s childhood home and knows he needs to play Dungeons of Daggerath. Once he completes it, he finds that a poster of War Games has turned into the Copper Gate. In order to pass the Gate, he needs to recite the words to the movie and do the actions correctly. He does everything and passes the first test.

Wade checks the scoreboard and finds that Art3mis has also made it through the Copper Gate and so has Aech, and two Japanese characters: Daito and Shoto. IOI has taken over the cave where the Copper Key is, and has sealed it off so that no one else can get a key and is churning out keys for their own players. Eventually the gunter clans come together and take out the IOI barracade.

Wade agrees to do corporate sponsorships in order to make money. He also gets an email from IOI. IOI wants to recruit Wade to work for them. Wade goes to the meeting with the head IOI seeker Sorrento. IOI offers him everything he could ask for, but Wade shuts them down. Then IOI reveals that they know who he is and where he lives. They threaten to blow him up. Wade believes they’re bluffing and still tells them no. He leaves the Oasis and then sees his trailer blow up.

Wade goes on the run. He assumes a different identity, and moves to Columbus, Ohio. He gets all the latest gear and devotes himself to finding the next key. He steadily gets more involved with Art3mis, and falls out with Aech. He’s never really officially dating Art3mis, and it all comes to a head at Og’s (Haliday’s best friend) birthday party. Wade tells Art3mis he loves her, she says he doesn’t really know her so he can’t love her and IOI attacks. 

After, Wade falls into a bit of a funk. He eventually gets out of it by forcing himself to become physically active. He re-focuses on finding the keys. Art3mis finds the Jade key and Wade plays a perfect game of Pac-Man. He earns a coin he cannot get rid of. Aech gets the Jade key and then sends Wade a hint in order to pay him back. Wade goes to Frobozz and plays Zork to get the Jade key. Then IOI takes over and starts farming Jade keys. They find the Jade Gate, and start getting Crystal Keys. 

Shoto finds Wade and tells him that IOI found Daito in real-life and threw him off a building.

Wade unlocks the Jade Gate (via Blade Runner) and plays Black Tiger to complete it. He then plays a riff from Rush on a guitar which gives him a clue that Sorrento overlooked. IOI makes public the knowledge of where the Crystal Gate is, and locks the place down with a special item.

Wade sends a message to Art3mis, Shoto and Aech and goes offline. He sets up a fake scenario to get captured by IOI in order to become an indentured employee in order to infiltrate IOI. He is captured and destroys his rig. He’s taken to IOI headquarters and placed in customer service. He backdoors his way into the surveillance system and then hacks into the servers. He plants a program to disrupt IOI’s force field. He learns that IOI knows who Art3mis and Shoto really are and are planning on kidnapping them. Wade makes a hasty escape and goes to a public Oasis station in order to contact his friends.

Wade lets them know that IOI is watching them and that they need to run. This is when Og appears. He offers them sanctuary at his home on the coast in order for them to safely attempt to complete the Crystal Gate. Og sends a plane for Shoto and Art3mis and tells Aech to pick Wade up and that they can catch a plane together. 

When Aech comes to pick Wade up he discovers that his best friend isn’t the dude he thought he was but a black lesbian. Aech tells Wade that she learned from her mother that it was better to have a male avatar because people would take a man seriously but not a woman. She also says that she left when her mother wouldn’t accept that she was a lesbian, so she drives around the country in an RV. Wade accepts her and the two reconnect on the way to Og’s house.

Wade sends a message to all the users of the Oasis telling them that everyone should team up to take down IOI and to meet them the next day in order to do so. When the four friends log in and travel to Anarak’s castle, they are surprised to find hundreds of thousands of avatars ready to take on IOI. Wade’s backdoor is a reprogrammed bot that self-destructs next to the item keeping the force-field around the castle. Once the barrier is down, its an all out brawl.

The friends turn into mechs, as does Sorrento (who turns into Mecha Godzilla) and some IOI cronies who have Crystal Keys. Shoto’s avatar gets killed by Sorrento, and Wade uses a special item to transform and take out Sorrento. The friends open the Crystal Gate and IOI sets off a bomb. Every avatar by the castle is destroyed. Wade only survives thanks to a second life (the coin from the perfect game of Pac-Man). Wade enters the gate. With his friends cheering him on, he completes Tempest and goes through Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 

Wade gets through the movie and encounters Haliday himself who explains the situation. Wade brings back his friends avatars with his new powers and they all log out.

Wade and Og talk about Haliday and then Wade goes out to talk with Art3mis. 

Evaluation

This is, frankly, one of the highlights of my reading adventure this year (so far). This had everything: likable characters with realistic problems, great plot, interesting mystery, engaging world (both of them), and a great take on dystopia. What a world Ernest Cline created.

This book was full of things that I knew, or could relate to (despite being born in the late ’80s). I got the references, and I loved the little jabs. The fact that the audio book was narrated by Will Wheaton was the cherry on top of this cake.

Really though, Wade was a likable lead. He had real problems, and he had to address them. His character was relatable. Art3mis was great as well. Aech was top notch. I loved Wade and Aech’s bro-ship.  Sorrento was a hate-able villain, and IOI was the perfect evil corporation.

Wade’s real world was disturbingly real, and seemed like it could fall in the realm of possibility. His online world was a lot like modern MMOs. Both worlds were well drawn and completely believable.

I completely loved this book. I don’t want to live in it (what a horrible future!), but I want to re-read it and have the feeling I will many times.

Genre

Science Fiction

Dystopia

Readalikes

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Significance

An award winning SciFi, that isn’t too far away from our reality. Realistic future, and future tech.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think about the big reveal?

Do you think IOI was a accurate portrayal of a corporation?

Talk about living in reality vs. virtual reality and the consequences of both.

Author’s website

Ernest Cline

Awards

Alex Award: 2012

Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Fiction for Young Adults: 2011

Nutmeg Children’s Book Award (Connecticut): High School

School Library Journal’s Adult Books 4 Teens: 2011

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Booklist

Why I Chose It

This sounded like a really interesting take on society, culture and dystopia. Plus, a friend said it was a really good read.

Other Information