Insert Coin to Continue
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?
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.