Day: November 3, 2021

illustrated by Jen Wang

by Cory Doctorow

From my pre-teen’s stack again. Her books just keep tempting me. This one is about an ordinary girl in a rather dull life, who plays a fantasy MMORPG. In the game, her alter ego is a fighter. She starts out in a girls-only guild (organized to encourage girls to play as girls, instead of taking male roles in the game). Builds her skills and gains some attention. Makes a new friend who encourages her to help with an offensive against gold farmers- people who gather materials in the game and sell them to other gamers for real money. I’d heard of this. It was something else to see it play out in a story, what the real situation might be like. Our girl Anda is outraged that these gold farmers enable others to get ahead in the game, without doing the hard work. Cheating! But then- she actually talks to one of the gold farmers. Finds out that he’s a poor kid in China, working long hours for little pay. She’s outraged all over again- that he doesn’t have proper health care, doesn’t get enough sleep, doesn’t make a decent wage, etc. Determined to help him, she looks up some info and questions her dad about a strike he’s going through at work, then tells the kid to organize a strike at his workplace. Meanwhile her mother finds out she’s been receiving money from other gamers- literal strangers- for the work she did going after the gold farmers. She gets banned from playing, but sneaks out and goes to an internet cafe to maintain contact with her online friends. Finds out that things went badly for the Chinese kid. Thinks she’ll never see him again. That’s what should have happened, IMHO.

The ending felt too pat. Things turned out too neatly. She happens to meet up with him in another location, suddenly he can speak English better (they were using a translator before), and tells her he got a new job, basically there was a bit of closure and then everything was fine. For a relatively simple book that I practically read in one sitting, this was okay. Personally I wished for a lot more depth, but for my ten-year-old, it was a great book with just the right amount of detail addressing some complicated issues. I did really like the artwork, and the portrayal of the balance between gaming- where everything seems to happen, all the fun and connections and feeling of achievement are- and the ordinary everyday world. The two seem so far apart, but really they can be closely connected.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
178 pages, 2014

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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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