Rating: 1 /5
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Science Fiction
Expected Publication: July 2, 2013 by Strange Chemistry
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When is a game not a game?
Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.
Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games, and, well, that’s probably not going to get him into college.
Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.
That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way. Thank you so much, Strange Chemistry!
Disclaimer: This can get quite ranty. And spoiler-y. Read at your own risk
Mother of all migraines. If there’s a book that pushed me to become an angry Hulk, it’s this. Playing Tyler is definitely one of my biggest disappointments this year, as it was successful in making me rage, stomp the floor in frustration, and put down my kindle because my brain was having its own form of seizures. There are just no coherent ways of expressing my utter hatred for this book. UGH.
First, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t go into this book expecting to hate it. I’m not the kind who’d willingly punish herself to get a kick out of it. To make things straight, the synopsis of Playing Tyler absolutely captivated me in its web. I have this soft spot for stories that have “game” concepts but eventually turns out to be more than what it is. There’s just something so exciting and bewitching about characters being so into something that initially looked innocent, only to feel betrayed later on when they find out about the horrible truth. Such a concept has potential to be an awesome and epic book, but Playing Tyler… did not play its cards well. There were just so many problems that I don’t even know where to start.
The blurb is somewhat misleading. It gives us that thriller, fast-paced vibe of uncovering truths and conspiracies within corporates and governments, but the first 60% of the book is like… drama. A long-winded, dragging, soap opera that is just so cring-worthy that the word “failure” doesn’t even cover it. So there’s Tyler, a teenage guy with ADHD who’s apparently a legend in online games. OK. Fine. I’ll go along with that. He gets invited to beta-test this new flight simulation game, and if he plays long enough, he’ll be offered a place in an aviation school so he can fly for real. Ok. Fine. I’m still nodding here.
AND THEN… he meets the programmer, who turns out to be Ani, who’s – dun dun dun duuuuuuun – also a legend in the online gaming world! And of course, Tyler goes, Ohhhemmmmgeeeeee a guuuuurl gaaaameerrrrrr OMFGHAXORZ!!! And it’s not just any gurl-omg-gamer, it’s THE gurl gamer, like, she was number 1 until I dethroned her!!!
This book made it seem like guuurrrrrrl gamers are sooooo rare and it’s just so utterly unbelievable that they can be as good as guys, and as a gamer myself, I am deeply insulted. But that’s not the focus here. It’s the pointless drama-rama. So, ok. Upon recognizing the girl, Tyler’s eyes immediately goes Ka-ching INSTALOVE! and he transforms into one creepy mofo stalker. NO JOKE. If you thought Edward Cullen was creepy, you haven’t seen Tyler yet. He freaking adores and worships the girl, keeps on thinking how she’s so cute and so awesome and so cute and so awesome and so so so cute, as if saying it a gazillion times just wasn’t enough. I know he has ADHD, but it was just so tiring for me to see him repeat it over and over without commas and periods because authenticity, yo! Anyway. Right. He wanted to ask her out, to date her, to make her his girlfriend, but she made it clear from the very beginning that she doesn’t want to. So you know what he does? He texts her. Over and over. He sends her an e-mail every day for WEEKS ON END. Pleading, wanting to know her, wanting her to visit her, wanting to visit him, etc. etc. OMFG. If I were Ani, I’d have run for the hills already!!!
But nooo… not Ani. Of course not. She eventually gives in, they gorge on pizzas, have a kiss outside (with Tyler describing his excitement of that kiss and the fact that he was kissed for a page or two), and they fall in love… and… there goes the first 60% … -_- (It is at this point I’m internally screaming: “I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS!!!”)
But even if the romance part was nonexistent, Tyler as a character was fucking annoying as hell. He later finds out that the game is not what it seems to be, and that he’s actually harming, killing people in real life. To terminate certain people, he kills tens and hundreds of others. In the beginning, when he still had zilch idea about the truth, he was enjoying all the rush the game had to offer. He kept on commenting how the simulation “felt so real”, how the “voices” of the “NPCs” seemed so genuine. He thought to himself how talented the voice actors were for really sounding authentic. But when he realizes the truth after seeing it on TV and after confronting his boss, Rick, he justifies what he was doing, saying he’s “good at it” and “he’s doing something right for America”, all because he doesn’t want to believe his best buddy Rick, a shady character who’s had military training, is really deceiving him. It was so obvious from the very start that it really annoyed me how the two characters acted all surprised much later when the epiphany bell hit them. I MEAN, HELLO?! A simulation with drones that “seem too real”, a project that’s not even known by the company, a TV news confirming the death and destruction in Afghanistan that Tyler left the night before… and they act all… GUH. Whatever. Fuck you, Tyler. Fuck you.
Anyway… the prose is easy to read but it can be very very annoying in Tyler’s POV. He has ADHD so he narrates with run-ons that are oftentimes lacking commas and periods. For authenticity I guess that works, but I just couldn’t deal with it. It bothered me too much and it failed to connect to me. If it’s full of I want to kiss her oh my god she’s so cute and so pretty and so awesome look at those eyelashes she’s really so cute ah I wanna kiss her so bad for half a page, then I’m sorry, it’s not going to work with me. Nice try for that, though. Other people could probably appreciate them but count me out.
Why doesn’t he care why doesn’t he just now I need him why can’t he see and now I’m going to fucking die and no one will be here to save him to care when he dies to cry when they put him in the ground and all I ever wanted to do in my life was see him get better and now we’re both hit.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t deal with Tyler and his endless focus on kisses and his cute girlfriend and their eyelashes that “go on forever” (x_x) and the overall execution of the plot. The pacing was just so off… if we go by content, it was more of a romance than anything else… a romance that was seriously badly developed and weird and disturbing. The real plot could’ve been good but Tyler and Ani, who has a pretty bland personality, were just too big epic failures I couldn’t ignore. I wanted to love this, because that blurb is fucking perfect, but unfortunately, I’ve found too many problems and thus have to conclude this review by saying this gets nothing more than 1 STAR from me.
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