In the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Feed and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Unplugged is the first in a provocative and compelling new series from acclaimed author Donna Freitas.
Humanity is split into a dying physical world for the poor and an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy. Years ago, Skylar Cruz crossed over to the App World for a chance at a better life, and her family stayed behind in the Real World. Now Skye is a virtual teenager, surrounded by glamorous apps and expensive downloads—yet she’s never felt like she fits in, and all she wants is to see her mother and sister again.
Skye is desperate and ready to risk everything to unplug from the App World. But she soon learns that the only person she can trust—in either world, including friends and family—is herself.
In the not-so-distant future of Freitas's fast-paced series opener, the world is divided. Those with resources live virtually, plugged into an App World whose inhabitants look vaguely similar (even sharing the same skin color, "Caucasian 4.0") and use Apps to differentiate themselves; those without live in the corporeal Real World, left to deal with disease, poverty, and physicality. Skylar Cruz, 16, is one of the rare "Singles," children chosen to live virtually in exchange for their families' service as Keepers caregivers to the bodies left behind by the virtual citizens. When the borders between the worlds are suddenly closed and the prime minister's son, Rain, is left on the wrong side, Skye is recruited to bring him back. But the Real World is in the midst of revolution, and Skye has become an important symbol for both sides. Freitas (The Tenderness of Thieves), a PW contributor, invokes several recognizable dystopian tropes including an expectations-defying heroine, a world facing drastic change, and an impossible love triangle as she explores interconnections among race, commerce, and technology. Ages 13 up.
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THIS BOOK MAKES NO SENSE! (a rant)
This book is a desperate attempt at originality, but ultimately falls short, hitting every YA dystopia stereotype there is. It has an extreme lack of creativity, even though it tries its damndest. And zero context when it comes to the world building or plot elements. Nothing is ever explained, you just have to kind of accept that, it is the way it is and things are happening simply because.
For the record this would have been a 1 star review, but I gave it 2 because, as unoriginal as it was, I saw the potential of its concept. Reading the synopsis, and even partially into the book, I liked the idea of it and I liked the idea of where it could go.
The virtual world itself is just annoying. Instead of coming up with a name for the virtual reality it’s just called the “App World”. App World? Really? The Matrix had the Matrix, SAO had SAO, and Ready Player One had the Oasis. It doesn’t have to be anything overly unique, but at least put some effort into it. The really annoying part of this is when they start talking about apps that they download within the App World. Which that’s all well and good, but because of this, the word “app” is used so extensively you’ll grow to hate the word itself.
But that’s all more just an annoyance, my real issue with this book is it story, or the lack of thought that went into the story. I don’t understand how there is even a conflict in this book. The Keepers, people in the real world, apparently feel oppressed because they have to care for the bodies of those plugged into the App World. I get that, but it also makes no sense. They’re laying lifeless in front of you in a virtual world, and they have no idea what’s going on in the real world. What’s stopping you from just not caring for them anymore? What’s stopping you from unplugging them, or simply turning off whatever computer they’re plugged into? They may be living in this virtual utopia, but the Keepers are the ones who are really in control. I don’t understand what is stopping them from simply walking away and starting their own society. This is clearly a one-sided conflict that has a very simple resolution for that one side, and if there were commonsense in this world there would never be a conflict in the first place, because it would be over before it began.
Even the resistance’s plan against those plugged in seems to be pointlessly dragged out (yes, there’s a resistance... for some reason). Why do they care about what happens to those plugged in? They live in a different world, are never going to interact with them, and already hate them. What are they waiting for? Also, THEY’RE REBELLING AGAINST BASICALLY DEAD BODIES, WHY ARE THEY EVEN A THING?
(I just had to get that out.)
Lastly, I really don’t understand the character of Rain, other than the generic love interest (because, YA), he doesn’t really seem to have a purpose beyond the first half of the book. It’s like the only reason he was there was just so Skyler had a reason to leave the App World. And she didn’t even know him at that point, she was just recruited to help bring him back into the App World. My question is, why did he leave in the first place? This may have been explained while I was still trying to understand the lackluster big picture that is the story, but I really don’t recall what even set it in motion.
Again, THIS BOOK MAKES NO SENSE!
In the end, this book simply tried way too hard and ended up worse for it. It’s not the first book to try and combine LitRPG with YA dystopia, but it is probably the worst.