Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ARC Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross #1)
By Marie Lu
YA, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Penguin Canada
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem... and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all. 
Hey everybody! *crickets crickets*
Yes, I am aware it has been quite some time since my last post and for that I have no excuse. I have certainly been missing the blogging world however, and reading in general. So, when I had the opportunity to read Warcross I most certainly did not pass it up.  Finally, I could do some reading which wasn't coming from a source material forced upon me from my Professors.

Just the summary itself sets it self apart from the more commonly seen YA scenarios and honestly I can not remember the last YA I read set in a sci-fi/futuristic world. It is not a common sub-genre within YA so it was refreshing to experience. It was also well executed, Lu's world-building clearly is the crux of the book and without it you'd be lost. With it, you are fully immersed in the story from the very beginning and throughout the story just wanting to learn more and more details about the world that these characters call home. Perhaps this (alongside the non-stop action) is what added to the book's seemingly compulsive pull on me to continue turning the pages far into the night.

There was quite a bit of terminology alongside the featured technology expectantly involved in this story and it was handled in a clear way that honestly just had me marveling at its coolness (for lack of a better term) and at times feeling quite honestly jealous at its element of escapism. There is just something about escaping from the daily grind of reality, as captured by this story, that is so appealing. The irony is  not lost on me that I managed to escape the current stress of my own life by reading this novel, meanwhile in the novel you could definitely see examples of characters doing the same.

Speaking of characters, Emika was a pleasant enough narrative to read through. I enjoyed her definitely more as the story went on and especially had grown fond of her by the end. That is certainly a sign of good character development, as in the beginning I was rather ambivalent (and honestly skeptical of her). I just found Lu was trying to cram in all of the emotional turmoil Emika suffered throughout her whole life  in the beginning of the story and for the cynic I am, I just found it to disingenuous and therefore it nearly had the opposite effect of the intended. I did not feel sorry for her, rather I felt annoyed at being bombarded with her life story instead of learning it throughout the course of the novel. I honestly found it to be a poorly guised technique for me to connect and sympathize to Emika straight away. It did not work.

However, what did work was seeing Emika grow and change. This was especially highlighted when Emika got more and more engrossed in the games and seeing her handle these heightened stakes. You really do get a sense of her intellect, integrity, loyalty and bravery throughout Warcross and for me that was what I found appealing. It was seeing her challenge to adversity present in the novel and her fighting spirit. It was seeing her character grow to be less naive and learn from her previous thoughts and mistakes. Without giving away spoilers, Emika becomes a character you can truly root for and, through some of Lu's emotionally evocative scenes, you not only understand her emotions but truly empathize and connect on a greater level. 

Emika's relationships to side characters in the novel are also interesting, and I would say that they are a little bit different to what you would normally see in YA. There are definitely layers present in their interactions and especially of that with the love interest. While I found Emika's backstory to be completely in your face obvious, I found the side characters (including the love interest's) to be more subtle and definitely more mysterious. By the end of the book there is still so much you do not know and it just leaves you with even more questions. I like that in the sense that it has you evaluating more closely what is going on and reading in between the lines to piece some details together. The side character's themselves are also just so much fun and I think give Warcross that extra little spark. I loved seeing their friendships with Emika not only grow but get challenged and altered throughout.

A bigger focus throughout the story was the love interest's relationship with Emika, which I briefly mentioned in the above. Honestly, I am rather iffy on it. While I feel Emika's attraction and strong feelings made sense (given there was a previously held almost 'celeb' like idolization) I cannot say the same of love interest's. It seemed as if his feelings just came out of the blue and I am not sure what the base of this was for him, therefore I do get some insta-love vibes. However, I enjoyed Emika and her love interest's romantic interactions and witty banter present throughout Warcross. Lu can definitely write romance. This is also a relationship that I think is completely tied into the ending and I am most certainly curious to see where Lu goes with it.

The ending ahhhhhh. I do not know where to even begin.  It was an ending that certainly packed a punch and one was I was not expecting at all, the very definition of plot twist. It was not a twist completely thrown out of left field however, with it making sense and looking back I could see the tiny hints weaved throughout the novel that would lead to its conclusion. The ending of Warcross certainly changed the course of the novel and I assume the resulting path will further complicate things in the sequel to come. I cannot wait to read it and see what else Lu throws at us.

 This was the first novel of Lu's I have ever read and I certainly am not disappointed. While everything else I have highlighted in this review is relevant to my feelings on this book, the most pushing (yet seemingly basic and inarticulate) thought I continue to have is that I simply had fun reading this story. It has been quite some time since I have truly read a book without pause and was smiling, gasping and just being so damn engrossed in it. I literally missed the train stop I was supposed to get off to meet my boyfriend at because I was reading Warcross. For a  novel with elements of escapism in it, I found myself having so much pure joy at reading it and in fact escaping for a bit myself. I have already touched on this idea a bit already but something inside of me cannot help reflect at how ironic this all is, and how books can provide that feeling for many.

In summation: read this book and escape for awhile. You will not regret it and will have a blast. 

~ Thank you Penguin Canada for the advance copy~
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