Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReading level: 9.5
Genre: Science fiction, adventure
ELL-Friendly: No
Library recommendation: Middle or high school

Goodreads summary:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.

There is a used bookstore in my college town that leaves free books in boxes outside of the store. Among the outdated computer manuals and self-help books, there is an occasional gem. This is one of those gems. I was excited to snatch Ready Player One, but Husband was even more excited.

Now, you’ll remember that the last time Husband was excited about a book and wanted me to read it, it was Ender’s Game. Did not turn out well. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about this one.

I almost gave up, actually. An conversation I had went like this:

Me: I don’t think I can keep going. I’m on page 60 and nothing is happening.

Husband: WHAT. Don’t give up. Let me see. Literally on the next page, things start to happen.

Me: Fine. Oh, there’s the excitement. Never mind.

I did truly enjoy Ready Player One despite it being about video games and a time period that I was too young to remember (the ’80s). But you guys, I actually played Zork on a Windows 95. Anyway, I’m also not a fan of sci-fi, but I got into this one.  I think that both the character of Wade and the plot are quite well done, and that’s what kept me going despite some boring parts. Wade is your typical unpopular geek, but early on, we learn he’s exceptionally smart (if obsessively so), and not to mention pretty brave and selfless.

I also appreciated that Art3mis is a girl in a gamer world, and she’s a super good gamer, too. It would have been easy for Cline to not include women at all (which he almost did), and I wish he would have built up her awesomeness. Like Husband admitted, Art3mis turns into more of a love interest near the middle of the book and never recovers.

Spoiler:

Aech is black and lesbian. Maybe it was Cline trying to be inclusive (killing three birds with one stone) and tacked that twist on, or maybe that’s how he always saw Aech. Either way, props for having a second (the second of two) female character be black and lesbian. What I thought was brave, especially coming from a white man, was Cline’s having Aech explain why she chose to create a white, male avatar: white men have the most power in society simply because of their gender and skin color.

This book is pretty popular with middle schoolers despite it not being entirely appropriate at times. There is lots of swearing and several f-bombs. There’s an awkward description of virtual sex and some other things I’m not going to talk about. Those descriptions are brief and not too graphic, but it’s enough that I wouldn’t read the book aloud in class.

The tone and vocabulary of the book is pretty high level and sophisticated. The vocabulary in particular is complex and includes lots of made up and technical terms, making the book not appropriate for low readers or ELLs. It does offer a challenge to middle schoolers and 9th graders.

I would recommend Ready Player One to kiddos who have high reading skills, like video games, and enjoy snarky narrators. It’s difficult to explain the niche this book fits into. I’ve been typing out an explanation but keep deleting, so I’ll just leave it there.

This is my first book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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