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Publishers Weekly Review
Emma is a gamer who codes her own games, much to the chagrin of some of the young men who play them. When one user begins trolling her with increasing intensity at the same time her parents' marriage falls apart, Emma unexpectedly turns to Rev, a neighbor with his own difficulties: his abusive, religious biological father wants to reconnect with him. Emma and Rev bond over their respective secrets, both harassed online by people who are leaving them increasingly fearful. Alternating between the teens' perspectives, Kemmerer (Letters to the Lost) does a good job of fleshing out their worlds beyond their interactions with each other: Emma's immersion in gaming culture includes a flirtatious online friendship with a player named Ethan, and Rev builds an engaging and hopeful relationship with the mistreated 14-year-old foster kid his parents have taken in. Readers will find it easy to fall into Rev and Emma's lives as romance hovers between them and they confront the violence of their past and present. Ages 14-up. Agent: Mandy Hubbard, Emerald City Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-Emma Blue inherited a passion for gaming and video game development from her father. His work often keeps him working long hours with little time for his family. Emma's mother is also a workaholic who strongly disapproves of Emma's interests. Motivated by a school project and a desire to gain some attention from her neglectful parents, Emma creates an entire video game on her own. OtherLANDS is an elaborate Internet-based game that has attracted a following of over 200 people; but she wants it to be perfect before it is unveiled to her overly critical mother and disinterested father. When players in the game start to cause problems for her in her real life, Emma feels like she has no one until she meets a strange boy in the churchyard. Rev Fletcher wears long-sleeve hooded sweatshirts even in the summer heat, because scars from his childhood cover his body. Now that he is living with his loving adoptive family, the emotional and mental scars from years of abuse are also hidden. Rev's past comes back to haunt him when his abusive father sends him a letter on his 18th birthday. Not wanting to burden his parents, Rev has no one to talk to until he meets a strange girl in the churchyard. A companion to author's Letters to the Lost, this is a riveting story told in alternating chapters. Rev and Emma's characters are engaging and well developed. Readers who enjoyed the previous volume will find even more to love in this novel, as it fully explores one of the characters with more depth. This title also stands alone for those who are new to Kemmerer's work. VERDICT A must-have for any YA collection. Give to teens who enjoyed A Boy Called It by Dave Pelzer or The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.-Ellen Fitzgerald, Naperville Public Library, IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Rev Fletcher, adopted by his foster parents at a young age, never takes their love and respect for granted. Ten years after becoming part of their family, he receives a letter from his abusive fire-and-brimstone father, causing memories of the severe physical traumas Rev endured during his childhood to burn deeper than ever. Meanwhile, Emma Blue is on top of the world, having created an online game, OtherLANDS, that has already developed a community. But her parents' fights and mother's constant criticism, already wearing her down, take a backseat to one player's constant harassment and vile threats. By the time Rev and Emma meet, their wounded souls and hard-kept secrets are eating them alive, begging to be shared. Their immediate connection sears them together with promises to help one another stand up to the people they fear most. Hard, sharp edges and guarded personal lives punctuate Rev's and Emma's stories. Kemmerer carefully peels away the characters' inhibitions, illustrating the fragility of their ability to trust. Mature topics, including foster parenting and divorce, creativity and autonomy, religion gone awry, the politics of trust, and facing one's most intimate fears, make this an absorbing, emotional roller coaster of a read. Readers looking for a different sort of coming-of-age story or teen protagonists grappling with complex situations will fall in love with this romance-tinged novel.--Fredriksen, Jeanne Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An accidental meeting leads to romance for two anxious teens; sharing secrets, they discover each is being stalked.Rev wears hoodies to cover scars left by his abusive father a decade earlier; successful adoption hasn't healed Rev's invisible scars, either. When Rev turns 18, his father initiates contact. His increasingly ominous emails reawaken Rev's nightmarish memories. Meanwhile, Emma's proud of the computer game she designed, an escape from her parents' foundering marriage. When a player/troll intrudes with obscene, threatening messages, she turns to a friendly player, who offers help. She mends a frayed friendship too, but her parents' marriage proves unfixable. The teens' connection is a balm for Rev and Emma, even as each inflicts unintended pain. The troubled teen Rev's parents take in as a short-term foster placement brings horrific baggage, adding to Rev's stress. Rev and Emma fear growing into their parents. Could Rev become his violent father? Might Emma morph into her cold, sniping mother? Family dysfunction, anxiety, and PTSD from long-term abuse are all believably conveyed. Frustratingly, in contrast to the well-crafted white characters (Rev, Emma, and most others), Rev's black, adoptive parents are "magical Negroes." Saintly, loving, infertile middle-class professionals, they're generic, place-holder avatars. Unlike Emma's vivid, problematic parents, Rev's lack individual traits or lives separate from their adjunct role, and the narrative is largely oblivious to race.A timely, suspenseful, well-written page-turner with compelling main characters and one notable flaw. (Fiction. 13-17) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.