Eighteen-year-old Emika Chen is on her own in near-future New York, barely scraping out a living as a bounty hunter and about to be evicted for being late on rent. Like just about everyone else in the world, she wraps herself up in Warcross, an immersive video game that's like capture the flag with elaborate fantasy worlds and super powers. When Emika hacks into the opening ceremony of the annual championship tournament, she is spotted by Hideo Tanaka, the enigmatic genius who invented the technology, and is recruited for the bounty hunt of her life.

A former video game designer, author Marie Lu (Legend; The Young Elites) peppers the book with gamer culture, including a nod to World of Warcraft's infamous Leeroy Jenkins incident. Emika is a satisfying heroine: she's resourceful and tough with a strong sense of what's right mixed with the grim practicality of a life of poverty. The bright imagery and breakneck pace of the game world will draw readers in, but it's the book's gray areas that will keep them involved. Emika's late father is a touchstone--memories of him telling her that "every locked door has a key" keep her going more than once--but she's clear-eyed about his drinking and gambling addiction. And after chapters of nail-biting action, the book's climax serves up a wallop of a question: Is it possible to try so hard to do good that you end up doing harm? This book will eat your free time until you finish, but it's worth it. --Ali Davis, freelance writer and playwright

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