Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi
After Maddy’s parents divorce, she’s stuck starting over at a new high school. Friendless and nicknamed Freak Girl, Manga-loving artist Maddy finds refuge in the interactive online game Fields of Fantasy. In that virtual world, she reinvents herself as Allora, a gorgeous elfin alter ego, and meets a true friend in Sir Leo. Maddy can’t hide behind Allora forever, especially as a real-life crush begins edging in on her budding virtual romance. But would anyone pick the real Maddy, gamer girl and Manga freak, over the fantasy? This fresh, geeky/cool novel includes online chats and exciting gaming, and features Maddy’s Mangastyle artwork.
Maddy’s life couldn’t get much worse. Her parents split and now she’s stuck in a small town and at a new school. Most of the time, she retreats into her manga art, but when she gets into the Fields of Fantasy online computer game, she knows she’s found the one place she can be herself. In the game world, Maddy can be the beautiful and magical Allora and have a virtually perfect life. And she even finds a little romance. But can Maddy escape her real-life problems altogether, or will she have to find a way to make her real world just as amazing as her virtual one?
Maddy Starr is going through a rough time in her life when she begins to explore the world of online gaming, a rough topic in her family since her parents just divorced in part thanks to her dad’s addiction to Fields of Fantasy, a fictional adaptation of World of Warcraft.
Because of Maddy’s parents’ divorce, Maddy is forced to leave her school and friends in Boston and move out to the country with her unicorn obsessed grandmother who continually remarks on how inappropriate her clothing and interests are. To make matters worse, Maddy is overwhelmingly unpopular at her new school and becomes a quick and easy target for bullies.
Through gaming, Maddy is able to tap into her inner confidence and make new friends. She also becomes a much better person. I was very relieved by this, since the back of the book made me nervous that there was an anti-gaming message hidden within. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy a quick game, the message is more about finding a balance between virtual reality and actual reality than it was a blasting of gaming communities as a whole.
Maddy is an interesting main character, and by interesting I do mean remarkably unlikeable for the first few chapters. Thankfully, Mancusi accelerates her character development very quickly so that we can identify with her before any momentum is lost.
This novel is fast paced and light enough for much younger readers. As a girl gamer, I was thrilled to pick up Gamer Girl, but I have to say that it wasn’t exactly what I expected.Far from being a novel by gamers and for gamers, Gamer Girl possesses an outsider’s perspective into the world of geek culture, but with any luck will interest future Gamer Girls into pursuing further avenues of geekdom.