Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, 2002
I should have written this book. It is exactly the kind of book I like to read. It is smart funny fantasy and very much in touch with the way MY daughters play video games. For years I have watched them play one game or another, including the best game ever, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.
Giannine Bellisario receives a gift certificate from her father for 30 minutes at the Rasussem Enterprises Virtual Reality Arcade. When she arrives the business is being picketed by the Citizens to Protect our Children who are protesting all entertainment that is supernatural, violent or scary. The protesters eventually storm the building and damage the computers while Giannine is "in" the game and she must play her way through in order to survive. Sure this plot sounds like a Star Trek Holodeck malfunction but it is great fun. Like any video game, when she "dies" she gets another life and has to start over again. Her repeated returns to the starting point are hilarious. In between the action and the humor there are some genuinely poignant moments. As she leaves her "virtual" family at the beginning of the game, over and over again, she muses:
Maybe the people at Rasussem need to develop a new game called Happy Family, where there's no gathering treasure or fighting hostile warriors or solving puzzles, just nice people who speak kindly to you and don't make you feel like one of these Christmas trees you see by the curb on December 26. I bet other people, besides me would be interested. Maybe.This book is on this year's Texas Lonestar Reading list. Good call committee! I hope lots of girls are reading it! It is in the vein of Tamora Pierce's books Pierce describes her heroines as "girls who kick butt."