Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Playing Tyler

Playing Tyler by TL Costa

YA Sci fi with gamers and a simulator that is more than it appears.

You know I love the YA books, and the vast majority of my YA reads have been female-lead. Ani, half of the narrating duo in this one, is fantastic - super smart, isolated, lonely, with a lot to learn about the "real world". In most of my reads, the lead male character is the bad boy, the almost too perfect crush, etc. In this one, Tyler is so perfectly imperfect. I found him to be very believable and likable.

Struggling with ADHD, Tyler is a swirling mix of thoughts and emotions. So much is going wrong in his life: his brother is in rehab, his mother is emotionally distant, he is struggling with school.  Then his mentor, Rick, gives him a chance to beta a new flight simulator. If he does well, it might lead to flight school. It also introduces him to legendary gamer, Ani.

For Ani, Tyler is both the person who beat her champion score, but also the only other gamer who was polite to her. They aren't supposed to see each other past Ani's initial set up of his system, but these two, of course, are perfect for each other.

This is a fast-paced read, and a YA with romance that is low on the angst-o-meter. Yes, it feels very inevitable, but honestly so do 99% of the romances I've read. I accept that.

I liked how the author introduced aspects of a longterm war overseas, the use of drones, how war effects the children of soldiers, PTSD, and the sometimes shadier aspects of businesses that profit from war. Tyler and Ani have both lost their fathers. Tyler's was killed by a drunk driver shortly before he shipped out. He looks to follow in his father's footsteps, to join the Air Force and serve his country. Ani's father is still alive, but suffers from PTSD. His actions after returning home landed him in jail, basically taking him out of her life. She has seen a negative effect that war can have on the human psyche and that influences her reactions.

As far as the supporting characters, Rick is a very interesting character. I liked that we got to see him from two different perspectives. Brandon, Tyler's drug-addicted brother, is tragic and you feel Tyler's frustration and despair in every scene the two share.

I will be looking for more from Costa.

[received an ARC to review]

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