Review Detail

Kids Fiction 2158
Pre-order this for the video gamer in your life!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Bryan and his friend Oz have a boringly normal life are a little obsessed with the Sovereign of Darkness video game. When Bryan apparently uncovers a secret level of the game, however, his life seems to BECOME a video game. Flashing blue lights in the air ask him to "insert coin to continue" and award or take away points based on his actions. He's followed to school by a pack of ninja bicyclists who try to get him, the white board in his math class becomes a game he must defeat, and dodge ball in gym becomes the most hysterically painful game in the history of poor phys ed curriculum choices! Even his teachers seem in on it, especially when Mr. Tennebaum assigns a detention and sends Bryan to retrieve the cake of gold from the glass case in the "sanctuary where the elders gather in repose" and dieting teachers attack Bryan for a Twinkie! Even though Bryan feels compelled to keep playing, he has to contend with his real life as well. School muscle head Tank things that Bryan has made disparaging remarks about his mother and challenges him to meet after school, and his long-time crush Jess seems oddly interested in him. Oz, as well as friend Myra, are there to help him out, but how Bryan needs to figure out how to get to "Game Over" by himself.
Good Points
Master of Middle Grade Anderson returns to his action and adventure roots with a superlative fantasy novel that includes everything my students love best-- laugh-out-loud scenes with evil teachers and improbably circumstances, fascinating characters you wish would sit at your lunch table, a little light romance, and VIDEO GAMES. The current trend toward incorporating games into novels definitely has my approval, since it's a surefire way to get even the most reluctant reader to give a book a try.

I loved the fact that most of the book took place during one school day. While some of Bryan's classes were more interesting than others (the jam session in band being more exciting than reading Romeo and Juliet in language arts), the spin put on every day activities showed a deep understanding of how a middle school day works as well as how students feel about what goes on around them.

The characters were also well-developed and multi-faceted. I was particularly fond of Myra, who was snarky but very astute. Oz was an excellent foil, and embodied the well-meaning squirreliness of middle school boys. Jess was a bit of a mystery to us and to Bryan, and the back story of the two's relationship made the ending of the book completely satisfying.

Middle grade readers will enjoy Anderson's other titles, and there are so many other video game books out this fall that readers who enjoy playing games will be glad to add this title to the growing list, which includes Korman's Slacker, Brown's Josh Baxter Levels Up, Markell's Click Here to Start, and Schrieber's Game Over, Pete Watson. Anyone else who wonders what really goes on in the custodian's lair or the principal's office will find Insert Coin to Continue a brilliantly amusing tale of how to survive the game of middle school.
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