|by TL Costa|
It starts out slow. Tyler's life at the book's beginning is as depressing as the barren lands he monitors by drone. His voice is choppy, pissed-off and repetitive but is interlaced with the voice of Ani, the prodigy game designer, and the back-and-forth between them works to even out the intense misery of Tyler.
But then he finds his niche in life, for a while, and it's kind of glorious to experience with him. I stayed up late reading this part, because I knew it was the rise before the fall. We're told in a PPT meeting that he has ADHD and aphasia and that struck home for me because I have something similar. Endless loops of thoughts and emotions tumble through your brain, any sound distracts you, but what you say and communicate with others is limited. I at least can write. He has dyslexia so that's out for him. His brain is caged until he frees it in gaming. His voice is unique, and I was falling in love with his character.
Then the plot gets really complicated, and Tyler needs to start talking in longer sentences in order to discuss it with Ani and his brother. So he does. Then he starts talking in paragraphs, methodically arguing his side against each of theirs.
This is where the story kind of fell apart for me. Upset as he is, the Tyler from the beginning would never be able to say the things that the Tyler in crisis says. Apraxia gets worse under pressure, not better. And he's off meds the whole time so there's no reason his thoughts start lining up logically and coming out of his mouth coherently. So that distracted me.
I liked everything else about the book. That it takes place near where I live around New Haven, and that Tyler's love interest is a brainy 16-year-old semi-outcast at Yale. She's great. That there are no reliable adults around, because I remember that from when I was 16. That important people are dying, have died, because that's real too. That Tyler is so hard on himself, and makes some dumb decisions. Totally true.
A few things are off. Like you can't get your GED a few weeks after dropping out of high school. Like the plot is far-fetched (mostly in terms of teenagers running real machines of war, like it was when Mathew Broderick and Ally Sheedy did the same thing)--but that part is fun. The story is kick-ass fast-paced for the last half of the book, and sad, and has a good, satisfying ending.
I'll read it again. Think my kids will too--and that doesn't happen too often :)