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In exquisite detail, Goodman explores what happens when an alternate reality takes over one boy's life, and the forces at work behind his obsession: the all-encompassing gaming realm that becomes more authentic than his real world.
Aidan and his twin sister Diana live with their mother in a small American town, which is dominated by the gaming company Arkadia. By day, Aidan goes to school, struggles with his friendships, does his homework as all normal teenagers do. But by night, he is a champion fighter, at the top of Arkadia's EverWhen gaming world. When he is mysteriously sent a small black BoX, which physically takes him into that world, the reality and perceptions of his two lives start dangerously to shift.
Nina, Aidan's English teacher and the daughter of Arkadia's owner, suspects that something is wrong and wants to help, but she has her own demons to deal with. The love of her life, Collin, is being pulled further into the clutches of EverWhen - when the two worlds collide, everyone involved will have to decide where their loyalties actually lie.
Goodman (The Cookbook Collector) probes the meaning and place of art in contemporary culture in her intricate and empathic novel. When artist and actor Collin is first drawn to Nina in a Harvard Square bar, he has no idea that the attractive young high school English teacher has no financial need to work at all. Her father is the head of Arkadia, a local gaming company at the leading edge of virtual reality technology. Convinced that Collin is squandering his talents, Nina encourages him to show his art to her father and his business partner, Nina's cruelly perfectionist uncle. The novel then shifts its emotional focus to the struggles of one of Nina's students and her increasingly troubled twin brother, who has become obsessed with Arkadia's newest game. Exploring not only the varying ephemerality and permanence of both art and relationships, this richly textured novel also considers the commodification of art and art as a means to salvation. With its strong Boston setting, the novel also offers opportunities to consider the contrasts between local and virtual communities and the authenticity of the relationships each fosters.