The Good WarFeatured
There's a new afterschool club at Ironville Middle School.
Ms. Peterson is starting a video game club where the students will playing The Good War, a new game based on World War II.
They are divided into two teams: Axis and Allies, and they will be simulating a war they know nothing about yet. Only one team will win. But what starts out as friendly competition, takes an unexpected turn for the worst when an one player takes the game too far.
Can an afterschool club change the way the students see eachother...and how they see the world?
When Mrs. B. saw that Crosby's group was internalizing Nazi ideas, she should have immediately broken up and rearranged the groups. I wouldn't have allowed that particular game any longer. Of course, then there wouldn't have been much of a story!
Video games are a hot topic for students, and there are a lot of fantasy books involving them, such as Mancusi's Dragon Ops, Anderson's Insert Coin to Continue, and Hansen's graphic novel My Video Game Ate My Homework. There are fewer that address video game playing in real life, such as Korman's Slacker and Brown's Josh Baxter Levels Up, but including gaming in the plot is a great way to get readers invested in the book.
The teams are chosen and play the Allies and Axis sides. Before long, these roles take on more and dangerous power. In addition, one of the members who plays at home is exposed to other players who are white supremacists, and this influence is as insidious as one would expect. The book ultimately deals with the dangers of communication online, the need to understand history, and the evolving identity of children this age.
What I loved: While it starts very light with some gross humor (loogies spit onto the bathroom ceiling), the book ultimately covers some heavy topics. These themes, including those about social media, prejudices/racism, and bullying, are discussed throughout and would be great to accompany discussions after reading the book to give children additional resources and ways that they can seek help if they see something similar happening in real life. Although there are several characters, they were all really intriguing and middle grade readers will enjoy them.
What left me wanting more: The selection of the game (rated M) and escalation seemed implausible in a supervised school club setting (unclear how it got so far). On the flipside, if these things had not happened, the themes would not have been so well explored. There was also some body function humor throughout, which were not my favorite, but will definitely delight some middle grade readers.
Final verdict: Overall, THE GOOD GAME was an intriguing contemporary middle grade novel that deals with some hefty topics. Would recommend reading in communication with adults for additional resources and discussion of the themes.