{Review} WARCROSS by Marie Lu

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  THERE'S NOT A PERSON in the world who hasn't heard of Hideo Tanaka, the young mastermind who invented Warcross when he was only thirteen. A global survey released today shows that a staggering 90 percent of people ages 12-30 now play on a regular basis, or at least once a week. this year's official Warcross Championships are expected to draw more than 200 million viewers. [...]


An earlier version of this story mistakenly described Hideo Tanaka as a millionaire. He is a billionaire. 

(pg. 9, US e-ARC edition)

“Everything's science fiction until someone makes it science fact.”

~Hideo Tanaka, WARCROSS

***So this book isn't out for another two weeks. I like to have my review up a little closer to release. But with Magic, Myth, and Mischief starting TOMORROW, it's either now or in October, and this book is too good. You need it AS SOON AS IT COMES OUT. So today it is!!!! Don't forget to grab this one in 2 weeks. It's my favorite book of 2017 so far!***

WARCROSS by Marie Lu was the first book to give me a book hangover in 2017. I read an advance copy at the tail end of March, only a fourth of the way into the year, and I was seriously up until after 1 a.m. two worknights in a row devouring this book. IT WAS THAT GOOD. I couldn't put it down!!! I read until my eyes drooped, then woke up in the morning, read some more, crammed some more reading into my lunch break, and stayed up again the next night until I'd finished the book. 

This is a book that will appeal to readers of many ages. This will be one of those YA books that breaks into the awareness of adult readers as well--adult readers who don't usually read YA. The main characters are older: Emika is 18 and Hideo is 21. That right there loosely places WARCROSS into the New Adult section. (While there are a couple of sensual scenes, the content is still YA appropriate as well!) I'd also recommend this book to everyone who liked READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline, which is an adult novel. If the annual Alex Awards worked in reverse, WARCROSS would definitely make the list as a crossover favorite!

SO LISTEN. It's really hard to talk about this book without spoilers. And I AM going to keep this review spoiler-free. But it means I can't tell you about some of the things I love that Lu did that made this book so awesome for me. And I'm sorry for that, but.... Well, you'll thank me when you go into this book blind and experience the same things!

Do you remember when we were on the brink of Smart Phone/Tablet technology? We didn't quite know that our lives were about to change permanently and that tech as we knew it would be forever altered? Well, in WARCROSS, tech has evolved again thanks to Hideo Tanaka and his invention of NeuroLink glasses. It's more than VR tech. It has a way of implanting into your brain and tricking you into thinking things are truly real, kind of like when you think a dream is real. It's not like VR, where we always know the world around us is fake. About a decade has passed since NeuroLink changed the course of technology as we all currently know it. All NeuroLink glasses come with a little game called WARCROSS that can be played for fun. The game has now reached an all-time high: "90 peercent of people ages 12-30 now play on a regular basis, or at least once a week." There are annual World Championships that have Olympics-Level Opening Events and the frenzy of the annual football/baseball Fantasy Drafts. 

When Emika Chen accidentally glitches herself into the Opening Night of the Warcross World Championships while exploiting a security flaw, she finds herself an overnight sensation. She's been living on her own struggling to makes ends meet since her father passed away seven years ago. She has no money to pay her rent and is about to be evicted. Desperate to survive, she hacks into Warcross to steal a rare power-up worth enough Notes to keep her afloat when she glitches into the game. The game's creator, Hideo Tanaka, flights her out to Japan the next morning and offers her the job of a lifetime:

Go into the World Championships undercover and figure out who is hacking the game. Emi was a bounty hunter back home, hacking to find gamblers wanted by the police to earn award money and stay afloat. She's good at what she does, and is only the second person ever to find the security flaw that glitches her into the Championships. Now, Hideo wants her to find the other person who has found the flaw and is using it for nefarious purposes. If Emika succeeds, she can walk away with a cool ten million. But she's under constant scrutiny by the media, who has chosen her as their New Favorite, and she has no clue just how dangerous the Truth will be, especially with all eyes turned on her..........

And that summary isn't nearly enough to tell you how good WARCROSS is because it's so much more complex than a small summary can do!!!

The NeuroLink tech is AMAZING. I won't even try to capture it here because I can't. And it's so much more amazing to experience it for yourself. But having lived in Japan, I think Tokyo is the PERFECT setting for "this year's" World Championships because Japan is a world in and of itself when it comes to tech. Think of all the cool anime gadgets and cute things (like cat ears!!) that girls and guys alike aren't ashamed to wear in public. The way the game tech weaves into reality enhances this thriving Tokyo society so much and becomes its heart. The way Lu describes a modern karaoke bar is perfect and I can see it so well. If she has themed cafes or Harajuku Fashion in the second book, I won't be surprised because they would also be a perfect fit for the tech and the world-building!!!

One of the coolest things about WARCROSS is that it read like a mystery. It was more of a thriller than it was "a dystopian novel" or "a fantasy epic." It pumped adrenaline into my veins as I read and had me running alongside Emika to keep up. I'm not normally one for mysteries because I frequently figure things out right away, and while I DID figure some things out here, there were also things that I never saw coming and was completely blind-sided by. WHICH IS AWESOME because it keeps me on my toes!!!

I also really like that Marie Lu has had a completely different tone and style and genre with every new series. Legend was a great trilogy in the oversaturated dystopian genre that still  holds up and is on bookshelves, when most other series are gone. The Young Elites was an awesome fantasy with X-Men-like abilities that made you question What Makes a Hero and What Makes a Villain? So much of the way Lu made me think in TYE creeps over into WARCROSS and sucker-punches me when I don't expect it. I cannot WAIT to get my hands on the sequel next year and find out how the story continues to twist and turn, which is how I felt after first reading THE YOUNG ELITES, too! I love that Lu isn't predictable and that she leaves a lot of food for thought. There's so much social commentary, too, and in some ways, this world is scary like our world. I love how Lu captures that reflection even as she builds her own reality for us to slip into.  (And if you're not a fan of reading books until the sequels are released, this is an ending that, while it leaves you wanting more, it doesn't have you throwing the book and screaming, either. It ties everything up just enough that there's no need to wait to binge-read both books...though I'll definitely be re-reading this next year right before I pick up the sequel!)


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13+ ( Kissing; sensual touching/innuendo. No sexual phrasing, though! Although it is mentioned at the book's beginning that Emika has brought home guys before, but younger readers might not infer the same things older ones will by any of the innuendo! )
Language: --
Violence: --
Other:  PG ( Hacking; an underage black market for gambling, porn, and other seedy internet dealings is mentioned, but nothing is ever graphically described. )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

There's been a lot said about this cover.

And, well, it makes more sense once you read the book, though!! For one thing, the MC dyes her hair like a rainbow. (In my head, her hair looks like Bridget from Trolls:

  ...but maybe that's because as I read this, my niece was obsessed with Dreamworks' Trolls and it was on TV every single time I went over that month!!!)

So that's why the title uses that coloring treatment. 

As for the rest? 

 The way the tech in the world works, the VR is very 3D-like that and able to me moved and viewed from all angles. The circutry weaving into the title does make sense, as do the waves underneath it. 

 I mean, it's not my favorite, but I don't HATE it and it DOES work for what the book is about, so there's that! 

I'm hoping it's metallic and amazing in person, the way some covers look flat and MEH on the screen and then so much better in real life!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Marie Lu
Release Date: Out October 3, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers // Penguin
Received: ARC for Review


From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. 

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. 

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.