In this hilarious, coming-of-age novel that’s “Ready Player One for the middle grade crowd” (School Library Journal), twelve-year-old Bryan Biggins wakes up to find that his life has become a video game.
Meet Bryan Biggins. Most of the time he’s a freckle-faced boy, small for his age, who attends a school known for its unwritten uniform of North Face jackets and Hollister jeans. The rest of the time he is Kieran Nightstalker, the level-fifty dark-elf hero of his favorite video game, Sovereign of Darkness.
Until one day Bryan wakes up to find out his life has become a video game. Sort of. Except instead of fighting dragons or blasting bad guys, he’s still doing geometry and getting picked last for dodgeball. It’s still middle school. Only now there’s much more at stake.
Stealing the Twinkie from underneath the noses of those dieting teachers isn’t enough to earn him another life. And battling the creature that escaped from the science lab doesn’t seem to cut it either. And who knew Romeo and Juliet would turn into a zombie bloodbath?!
All the while he’s losing hit points and gaining levels, and facing the truth that GAME OVER might flash before his eyes at any minute. It all seems to be building to something…something that has been haunting Bryan since way before his life turned into an X-Box nightmare, a challenge that only he can face. Will Bryan find a way to beat the game before it’s too late?
In this clever deconstruction of video game tropes, an eighth-grader's everyday routine is inexplicably turned into a game. Now Bryan Biggins's clothes grant stats (a holographic label identifies his shoes as "Boots of Average Walking Speed. Fire resistance +5%"), and completing various tasks and challenges grants him experience and allows him to level up. Running an errand (accepting a quest) for a teacher becomes a death-defying experience, a read-through of Shakespeare in English class takes on Choose Your Own Adventure qualities, and confronting a bully is like beating an end-level boss. Every time Bryan is close to defeat, he has to pay a coin in order to continue playing; he doesn't want to know what happens if time runs out. Anderson (Ms. Bixby's Last Day) presents an entertaining romp in which a mundane school day takes on epic qualities, but Bryan's "win" is contingent on him working up the nerve to chat up his longtime crush, Jess a "get the girl" convention that's common enough in games but underwhelming in this context. Ages 8 12. Agency: Adams Literary.