Insert Coin to Continue

Insert Coin to Continue
Age Range
Release Date
September 20, 2016
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Bryan Biggins wakes up to find that his life has become a video game in this funny, honest coming-of-age novel from the author of Sidekicked and Minion.

Meet Bryan Biggins. Most of the time he’s a freckle-faced boy, small for his age, who attends a school known for its unwritten uniform of North Face jackets and Hollister jeans. The rest of the time he is Kieran Nightstalker, the level-fifty dark-elf hero of his favorite video game, Sovereign of Darkness.

Until one day Bryan wakes up to find out his life has become a video game. Sort of. Except instead of fighting dragons or blasting bad guys, he’s still doing geometry and getting picked last for dodgeball. It’s still middle school. Only now there’s much more at stake.

Stealing the Twinkie from underneath the noses of those dieting teachers isn’t enough to earn him another life. And battling the creature that escaped from the science lab doesn’t seem to cut it either. And who knew Romeo and Juliet would turn into a zombie bloodbath?!

All the while he’s losing hit points and gaining levels, and facing the truth that GAME OVER might flash before his eyes at any minute. It all seems to be building to something…something that has been haunting Bryan since way before his life turned into an X-Box nightmare, a challenge that only he can face. Will Bryan find a way to beat the game before it’s too late?

Editor review

1 review
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Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
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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