If it's possible to have a crush on a book, I think I have one on Gamer Girl! After picking it up off a library shelf at random, I tore through its 224 pages in three hours and forty-five minutes, because I just had to know what happened next. It's not that it's packed with action; it was just such a refreshing change from the average young-adult fare that I couldn't help but enjoy it.
Maddy is a skater/emo girl who loves manga (Japanese comics), drawing, and recently for her, video games. Her parents have just divorced, and she's going to a new school. Unfortunately, things at her new school take a bad turn on the very first day, and she has a hard time making new friends. She also won't get to see her dad as often due to the divorce, so for her birthday, Dad gives her the game Fields of Fantasy so they can hang out in the virtual world. However, Dad doesn't seem to be able to hang out much there either, and so Maddy (alias Alora in the game) ends up hanging out virtually with a kid named Sir Leo. Sir Leo is a lot of fun, and before Maddy knows it, Sir Leo is also Maddy's best (and only) friend.
The book is good with this, too, however. Maddy's dad tells her not to give out too much information to strangers online, pointing out that he could be anyone-- not neccessarily the sixteen-year-old guy he says he is. And later, the book points out the dangers of gaming too much when Maddy's dad ditches her for his online gaming buddies. Maddy clearly sees that there is a difference between being a gamer and being a computer addict. Conquering her fear of the bullies at school, she learns to stand up for herself, makes some new friends, and discovers Sir Leo's true identity.
The book, published in 2008, is written very much in the "now"-- you'll find references to things like Facebook, Myspace, cell phones, and actual manga titles like Fullmetal Alchemist. This part of it was especially well-done. Too often, name-dropping feels like an advertisement, but in this book, Mari Mancusi makes it work, adding to the feel that Maddy could very well be someone you actually know. I also felt that Mancusi did a good job with the 'internet dangers' part, making sure that her readers know to watch out, without lecturing. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and felt that it was refreshing and well-written.