Video game lover Josh Baxter knows that seventh grade at a new school may be his hardest challenge yet, but he's not afraid to level up and win!
Josh Baxter is sick and tired of hitting the reset button. It's not easy being the new kid for the third time in two years. One mistake and now the middle school football star is out to get him. And Josh's sister keeps offering him lame advice about how to make friends, as if he needs her help finding allies!
Josh knows that his best bet is to keep his head down and stay under the radar. If no one notices him, nothing can touch him, right? But when Josh's mom sees his terrible grades and takes away his video games, it's clear his strategy has failed. Josh needs a new plan, or he'll never make it to the next level, let alone the next grade.
He's been playing not to lose. It's time to play to win.
Josh sees life through the lens of video games a useful coping mechanism for someone starting at his third middle school in two years, where he immediately gets on the wrong side of a bully. His school year only gets worse when his mother forbids him from playing video games until his grades improve. In response, Josh fully commits to the life-as-video-game mindset, determining to do what it takes to "become the hero who could get the grades, beat the bullies, and maybe even impress a princess." Along the way, Josh connects with some fellow geeks and video-game lovers, including classmate/crush Maya. Brown includes countless gaming references that will delight in-the-know readers (at various points, Josh contemplates how heroes like Mario, Link, and Sonic the Hedgehog would react to situations), and each chapter ends with an update on Josh's health status, remaining lives, and other stats (he unlocks the "Summon Bully" skill after the first chapter). It's a light, fun approach to typical middle-school struggles from an author who gets his audience and knows his games. Ages 8 12.