Many thanks to the publishers for my digital copy via NetGalley of this brilliant new novel from Gabrielle Zevin. Not having read anything from this author before, not even The Storied Life of A J Fikry, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I have to say I loved it!!
This is not a romance, but it is about love
Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over.
When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars.
This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.
I really don’t know where to start in reviewing this new novel from author Gabrielle Zevin. It’s such an imaginative and interesting read about friendship, love, loss, work, trauma. So many things are packed into this novel. The first thing I will say though is that I fell in love with Sam and Sadie by the end of the first chapter. In fact such wonderful characters throughout like Marx and all the others made this a joy of a book to read.
The story is about two kids who meet in a children’s hospital and form a short friendship over their love of video games and play together, one to kill time while waiting for her sister to receive treatment, the other to numb pain as he recovers and receive treatment to repair damage to his foot from a car accident. Their friendship, however, is cut short by an unfortunate ‘misunderstanding’ of sorts, and they no longer continue to see each other.
However, 8 years later Sam spots Sadie at a train station and their love of gaming once again brings them back together. The story follows them, back and forth in time, as they start a career together along with the wonderful Marx and we follow their lives over about 30 years, watching how their experiences mould them into the adults they become. How both success and failure impact their lives and how they deal with that. It had me love, laugh and cry in equal measure.
You don’t need to know a lot about gaming or current gaming trends to read this novel as those mentioned are rather retro, or made up (I think) and make up part of the story themselves rather than determine your understanding of the story. In fact the way gaming is used in the book is wonderfully imaginative and made great reading. I don’t want to mention anymore of the story line as to read this knowing as little as possible make the read even more enjoyable. There is so much that happens, so much I didn’t expect, and told in such varied ways that I wouldn’t want to ruin it’s enjoyment for others.
What I will say though is that this novel is packed full of emotion, love, friendship. I laughed and cried. A really wonderful read and one that I would highly recommend.