Cover Image: Walking in Two Worlds

Walking in Two Worlds

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Member Reviews

There are some solid ideas at play here but the writing is rather scattered. Too many elements pulled in but never resolved.And the resolution was sort of confusing.
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I don't know what to say about this book.
On one hand, the Anishinaabe rep is detailed and the book gives great commentary on colonization and the genocide of Indigenous people. The Uyghur inclusion also offers a good parallel to show that colonization is still very much a problem in the world today.
On the other hand, the plot itself (or should I say themselves? Because there seem to be multiple main plots vying for the reader's attention rather than one main plot and a few subplots...) is all over the place. There's Bugz' self-esteem, her brother's health, the romance and the neo-nazi/incel group in the game trying to take her down. It's too much and it feels like nothing is really explored as much as the rep.

Reading the author's dedication in the beginning, I think it's safe to assume that the plot took the back seat in favour of having good rep, and it makes for a read that will probably mean a lot more to Anishinaabe people than anyone else. Not a complaint; marginalized people need books written just for them too and I applaud that. But anyone who goes in for anything else than the rep might be disappointed.

Speaking on what I guess was supposed to be the main plot (the video game and the neo-nazi/incel group wanting to beat her) I feel it both went too far an not far enough. I'll expand on the trigger warnings in a bit, but I want to make it clear that what happens in the clearing would have been much worse in real life and, knowing the shitty record of Canadian government involvement when it comes to finding Indigenous women, it would have been the end of the story for Bugz. In that way, I feel the author diminished the harm neo-nazis and incels do in real life. I don't think the scene was necessary, especially since they never get anything back. Nobody comes to Bugz aid outside of her little bubble. We never see any of her viewers and supporters in the 'Verse back her up. However small that group may be, it would have been more realistic to see a few other players try to help inside the game too.

As I said, I also want to mention the long list of trigger warnings. There's A LOT, and it's a damn shame there's no list in the ARC (I hope the final version has it) because most of them come from absolutely nowhere and you're hit with stuff like self-harm and suicidal thought when you least expect it. If you have ANY triggers, read the list carefully before reading the book.

I'm a white woman, so I won't even pretend to understand how Anishinaabe people feel, and I urge you to read ownvoice reviews. I can only state what I felt reading it and, though it's not the best, I think the rep is really good. It's also better than Ready Player One.
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As an English teacher, I had some minor issues with the uneven pacing and lackluster writing of this YA novel. However, I think it would be a great text to use in the classroom. 

I think that the use of video game vernacular will engage even the most hesitant of readers, allowing students to feel a sense of familiarity and ease. 

And the underlying messages within the text are so relevant and relatable. 

The novel has such an interesting perspective on self-image, mainly explored through the contrast between the protagonist's avatar and her appearance outside of the virtual world. 

She is treated vastly differently based on her appearance. 

The novel ultimately encourages readers to accept themselves as they are, despite the backlash Bugz receives from Feng and the alt-right due to her perceived "catfishing." 

And the way that Bugz uses her Indigenous roots and ways of knowing to build her way to the top sends such an inclusive and necessary message.

But at times, the novel felt too "after school special," trying to navigate a plethora of other teen issues without giving them the attention required to make any meaningful impact. 

Such is the case with the subtle references to self-harm and projected grief. 

Nevertheless, this novel is sure to spark great conversations amongst young readers.
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In this light, near-future science fiction, we follow Bugz, an Anishinaabe gamer at the top of a virtual reality game called the Floraverse. She is an expert at creating legendary creatures in the game, and she cherishes the opportunity to preserve her culture in this space. Our villains are a group of misogynistic, white gamer bros whining about their lot in life (so not much has changed). The pandemic is a historical event, the first in a wave of many throughout the decade, apparently (a depressing eventuality that I had trouble moving past). Prepare yourself for frequent artifacts of that history in scenery and conversation because I was a bit overwhelmed by it.

The book features some important conversations about race, gender, and genocide. Bugz has her own experiences with racism and sexism, some on the page and others merely referenced, but her love interest, Feng, also adds to the complex tapestry. As an Uyghur, Feng was sent to a government school in China to make him fit the cultural mold, something Bugz can relate to Indigenous residential schools. However, Feng is still subject to the brainwashing he experienced and has decided to support the gamer bros in the virtual world. This conflict puts a damper on an initial crush developing between the two characters, but their insta love does not falter as much as I would expect.

I am disappointed not to love this one. For one thing, the world-building only shows up a quarter of the way in after I had been struggling to understand the virtual/augmented reality setting. Even as a gamer, I floundered. The plot started to feel repetitive as Bugz uses similar tactics against the gamer bros in each new overwhelming attack. The battle scenes are long and follow similar patterns. Much less time was spent on the many major humanistic aspects of the story. Bugz has a brother with a terminal case of cancer, a would-be boyfriend who hung out in an alt-right group for years, and bullies that lead her to consider self-harm. Feng has brainwashing, bad friends, and strained family relationships to work through. Some of these specters are rapidly banished at the very end without buildup and others are left open-ended, so I was generally dissatisfied.

A specific and major concern I want to spotlight is Bugz's internalized fat-shaming and the way her weight is a near-constant topic in the story. The complicated conversation around virtual reality and body image is a valuable topic well-suited to this story's environment. However, the barrage of negative comments was jarring and two-dimensional. As a woman lucky enough not to have severe body image issues but still in a constant struggle over my weight and appearance (thanks, society), even I was triggered by the degree and tone of hatred. The nasty comments of others result in some apologies but not in what I would consider a heartfelt desire to change their mindsets. Bugz's journey results in an abrupt bout of self-love in the final pages that was not only unrealistic in terms of all her self-directed vitriol previously but I think also sets unfair expectations for others' journey with their bodies.
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**3.5-stars rounded up**

Walking in Two Worlds is Indigenous author, Wab Kinew's, YA Fantasy debut. Set in the near future, following two teenagers, Bugz and Feng, this narrative swerves between our world and a VR-gaming world both teens are involved in, known as the Floraverse.

Bugz, an Indigenous teen, who grew up on the Rez, is shy and self-conscious in our world, but in the Floraverse, she's strong and confident. She's also the most powerful and popular player in the 'Verse.

Feng is a Chinese boy, recently sent to live on the Rez with his Aunt, the new family practicioner there. Feng was forced to flee China after his online activities suggested he was leaning towards extremist sympathies. He plays in the same game that Bugz dominates and is actually part of a group called, ClanLESS, who is promoting her downfall. Violently.

When Bugz and Feng meet at school, they hit it off right away. He doesn't recognize her from the 'Verse, as her persona there looks a lot different than she does in real life. As they build their relationship, it is finally revealed to him who she is. He's impressed. Instalove ensues and Feng's loyalties are put to the test. Can Bugz overcome the odds stacked against her?

Clearly, this is an over-simplification of the plot, but I think it is best to just go in knowing you will get great representation, exciting gaming elements, eye-opening commentary on some aspects of the Indigenous experience, as well as heartbreaking examinations of social anxiety, self-confidence and feelings of being powerless, voiceless or helpless.

Certain details of this story hit me hard, but it was a mixed bag. While I genuinely appreciate the level of creativity Kinew brought to this story, including some really great current social issues, I couldn't help but feel that Bugz and Feng played second fiddle to all of that.

It felt like they weren't built-out as much as they could have been. Maybe it was because the book was fairly short, but the insta-love was too heavy for my taste and their personalities felt very flat. I wanted to know them more and I don't think Kinew had the chance to really allow them any growth.

The gaming elements were quite well done. I thought it was exciting and vividly-described. Even though I knew that was a virtual reality, it still hurt my heart when events happened in the game that had a negative impact on Bugz. The game is so much a part of her life. It is where she feels the most strength; the most like her true self. That was impactful. Well done by Kinew.

Towards the end, there were a couple of plot points that didn't sit quite right with me; for example, an event involving ClanLESS in real life. I believe I understand the symbolism behind that being included, but it just didn't make practical sense. Also, I was hoping for more personal growth from Bugz. I will admit to being a little unsatisfied with her trajectory.

With this being said, this is a very good story. It's fast-paced and I really feel like I got a lot out of it. My hope is that this makes it into a lot of school libraries in the United States and Canada. I think YA-Readers will really relate to a lot of the topics explored within this story and the representation is so needed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Penguin Teen, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had a lot of fun spending time with Bugz and shed a few tears along the way. I really hope that Wab Kinew continues to write in the YA-Fantasy space. I would love to read more from him!
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Read if you like: science fiction that takes place in the future, video games.
Bug is a successful gamer, but in the real world, she is a self-conscious Indigenous teen. Throughout the novel she tries to reconcile her online persona with her real world personality, all while battling personal and family trauma.
I loved how the author incorporated traditional elements into the video game, and that the reason Bug was so successful in the game was because she knew how to love and respect the land and the animals. The book also looks at the impact the pandemic had on Indigenous populations.
The book also includes a character named Feng, who moves from China. His family was impacted by the Uyghur genocide in China.
CW: sexism, racism, body image issues, bullying, cancer/illness of a family member, white supremacy, Uyghur genocide, and pandemics.
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Definitely a lot to like here but the pacing felt off in a lot of places and the middle seemed to drag. Still enough good things to round up to 4 stars.
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This book was absolutely fantastic. I've already added it to our list for order this year and will recommend it to students.
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Walking in Two Worlds was a quick and intriguing read. We follow both Bugz and Feng in their virtual and real lives. I enjoyed the virtual reality game aspect of the book and was excited to dive more into it. The descriptions of the game were interesting to read about and I loved that Bugz recreated aspects of her culture in the game. Unfortunately I didn't completely understand how the game world worked which was a bit confusing. I really enjoyed learning more about Bugz and her culture throughout the book, and it was one of my favourite aspects of it. Bugz deals with a lot throughout the course of the plot and you definitely root for her. The romance in this book also felt a bit rushed and underdeveloped. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were longer, to give us more time to see the characters develop.
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Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Walking in Two Worlds is a young adult science fiction novella (or really short novel, it's on the border) by Indigenous author Wab Kinew.  The novella takes the perspectives of two teens who come from peoples who have been the target of cultural and real genocide by their conquering/dominant nations - an Indigenous girl and an Uyghur boy - who struggle balancing their conflicting emotions between their cultures...and their different personas in real life and in a virtual reality game that has major prominence.  

The result is a really solid and interesting novella, marrying a future VR-obsessed world like LX Beckett's Gamechanger to a story really based upon the struggles of Indigenous and other peoples, and is a very solid read, even if it has a few flaws in final act execution.  

Trigger Warning:  Suicidal Ideation.  

Quick Plot Summary:  In the virtual world, the Floraverse, Bugz is #1 - a woman whose 'Versona is not just physically attractive, but incredibly powerful, armed with weapons and creatures out of indigenous myth that allow her to destroy anyone in her path - like the misogynist right wing clan known as Clan:LESS, which hates her for daring to be a woman in their game.  But what Clan:LESS doesn't know is that Bugz' power comes from the intersection of her indigenous heritage and how the game works, in a way that they could seemingly never replicate.  

In the real world, Bugz is a teenage indigenous girl on a reservation who is taunted for her weight, and is picked on by other teens her age.  She loves her family and revels in her indigenous culture, but feels incredibly frustrated when that culture's traditions force her as a girl to the side for no good reason.  But there seems to be no changing either it or Bugz's online life, as good as it is.  

And then come Feng, a Uyghur boy reeducated in a Chinese reeducation camp...before he was forced to flee China to his family when Chinese censors decided his online affiliation to Clan:LESS was a subversive activity.  For Feng, Clan:LESS was a place he could be accepted when his own family failed him in childhood, not a group of hate - and so when he meets Bugz and her family, it throws everything for a loop.  And for Bugz, the presence of this boy with his own persecuted heritage, a boy whose online persona threatens her own, it threatens to overturn both worlds in her life.  

Thoughts:  Okay that's a longer plot summary than I intended for a novella, so less thoughts, since I think most of them are contained in the plot summary - this is a book very much about its title, with both main characters walking in two worlds in more than one way:  for Bugz, it's her real world and her virtual world but also her proud indigenous heritage and her identity as a modern girl who can see when traditions are utterly backwards and still be infuriated; for Feng, it's not just his real world and virtual world, but his existence as an Uyghur boy who has no understanding of that culture due to reeducation and being taken from his parents, while at the same time not being Chinese or North American in the real world, and thus being ostracized. 

And these worlds are not wholly part, and that's what makes the story so well done.  For example, Bugz' virtual dominance is helped seemingly by the designers of the game not having maps for the rez, resulting in it having strange glitchy properties that give her an edge.  Feng's ostracization in the real world is what leads to him joining and excusing a right wing misogynist and racist clan in the virtual one.  And trauma in one world leads to trauma in the other, making everything far more difficult, until the two characters in the end, when everything comes to seeming disaster, realize these worlds can be connected - both their good parts and bad - and pulled together to make them stronger.  

There's one really annoying trope here of plot-induced pseudo betrayal, but other than that, this is a really solid and enjoyable novel, dealing with some really strong themes.  Recommended.
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**I received an electronic ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for honest review.**

Actual rating: 3.5

Wab Kinew brings a young adult light scifi with Walking in Two Worlds. Readers follow Bugz, a power player in a digital world who has a lot of self-doubt in the real world. Kinew draws upon Anishinaabe culture and traditions heavily in this novel and was kind enough to provide readers with a pronunciation guide for some of the frequently used Anishinaabe terms.

There are some content warnings for this book including but not limited to cancer, self-harm, pandemic mentions, fat-shaming, racism, general bigotry, misogyny, and suicidal ideation. In addition, Bugz is a character that has a lot of self-doubt and is not always kind to herself in her thoughts, which readers experience in italicized commentary.

Kinew mentions in an author's note and in the dedication that he was inspired by students at Pelican Falls First Nations High School and wanted to write a book that represented the shared cultural background that he has with those students. Certainly, Kinew incorporates a lot of Anishinaabe culture and traditions into the narrative which, not being a part of that culture, I really enjoyed reading about. 

Kinew also includes love interest Feng, a Uyghur boy who was raised in a Chinese majority school after being taken from his parents. I was not previously aware of the Uyghur people, who are among many ethnic minority groups in China. I am glad for the opportunity to further educate myself in this area as well. 

I have spoken predominantly about the representation in the book because the plot itself is not necessarily unique. The book revolves around a virtual reality type game/world and the real world and how Bugz and Feng interact with both. It is the cultural influences and incorporation which gives this plot new life and makes the story feel fresh. 

I did feel like the pacing of the story was rather rushed, and did not necessarily feel that the plot was resolved at the end. I understand the author's choice to leave the ending as he did, but it was not a choice I particularly enjoyed. 

Overall, I feel this story could appeal to readers who enjoyed Ready Player One, Slay, or Warcross due to the similar themes, or to readers who would like a very light scifi with Anishinaabe cultural representation.
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I think younger readers will love this YA fantasy novel from Wab Kinew, a well-known media and political figure in Canada. 

Set in the near future, Bugz, an indigenous teen and infamous online gamer, struggles with her insecurities and life on the reservation. Online, she is a beautiful and powerful player, but in real life, Bugz battles with her body image and self-confidence. 

Meanwhile, Feng, a teen boy from China, has been sent to live with his aunt on Bugz’s reservation. When the two meet they form an instant connection with each other and together they go on some wild adventures, both in real life and online. 

While embarking on these emotional journeys, both Bugz and Feng strive to connect their traditional cultures with the contemporary world they inhabit. 

Although this is YA, the story does not flinch in exploring some very dark concepts, such as far right politics, the Uyghur genocide, and self-harm. It’s a lot to pack into a single novel. 

This is a fast-paced action story that I could easily envision as a movie or TV show. Personally, I prefer character-driven novels with little plot, so I didn’t completely fall in love with this one. The romance was very insta-lovey, which I am also not generally a fan of. 

I’d recommend this to readers who love video games and learning about indigenous culture. 

Overall, this is a solid debut fantasy novel and I will certainly read any future works by Wab Kinew. 

Thank you to Penguin Teen for providing me with an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I'm definitely not the intended audience for this one. 
The AR/VR world was very confusing and at times it was very difficult for me to tell the real world and virtual world apart. 
There was also some construct and grammar issues which I'm sure is going to be fixed in the final copy. 
I cannot speak on the rep for any of the main characters but the themes were heavy! 
The relationship felt too rushed and forced. 
This just wasn't the book for me but thank you to the publisher for giving me a chance to review and I will definitely get this book into the right hands!
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A near-future science fiction novel where a girl named Bugz recreates aspects of her Anishinaabe culture in a virtual reality world, fighting to maintain her presence against a band of alt-right gamer boys bent on destroying her avatar and her grip on game. When one of those gamer boys moves to her hometown and meets her in real life, he begins to realize their crusade against her is wrong, especially as he begins to realize how much this VR Spirit World means to her. But IRL bullying alongside VR gatekeeping and personal tragedies begin to consume her life. And can she trust this new kid with his allegiances to her biggest enemies? 

There was so much to love here. The near-future exploration of AR and VR was really wonderfully incorporated, those aspects of the story just as important as the real-world ones. And the way Bugz's uses the creation capabilities of the VR Spirit World to feel more connected to her Anishinaabe roots was so great to see, especially the ways in which it melded the cultural and spiritual with the technological. That said, on to some of the aspects I didn't like as much. Bug'z body image issues are not adequately addressed, especially the ways in which she and others view "fat" and "chubby" as pejoratives which can't be neutral descriptors (ie you're not "fat" you're "perfect" and "beautiful.," when guess what those things aren't mutually exclusive and implying they are contributes to societal fatphobia). I also felt like Bugz and Feng's relationship was rushed and parts of the story were underdeveloped. Those things definitely knocked down my rating, but that said, I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it for readers looking for a near-future, gamer-centric YA novel as long as those aforementioned issues won't be a problem for them.
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A really cool concept, and a good YA debut from Kinew.  Strong world-building, with cool technology and just the right amount of conflict to keep things moving.
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This book needs to be on every library shelf for young readers. Enlightening and compelling, Walking in Two Worlds is a story we have yet to see in today's literature and it is desperately needed.
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I'm a bit on the fence about this book. The way Indigenous culture is woven into the story is great, as are the overall themes and ideas. It's just that a number of times I was yanked out of the story by abrupt transitions and/or the feeling that I could see the author _trying_ to accomplish certain effects. I'd rate it 3.5 stars. 
Thanks the NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read it in advance.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this eARC. 2/5 stars. 

I really, really, really wanted to like this. The cover is beautiful. Indigenous rep is important. But...this book was a mess. It takes place in the near future with mentions of multiple pandemics and also tying in the Uighur Genocide in China with the other character. It's also set in the near future where AR/VR is a constant for the teenagers. The plot was a mess. While it's about Bugz finding herself, I don't think there's any reconciliation between her dilemma of who she is by the end. Feng is a nuisance and got tangled up in the White Supremacist group in the online VR world that Bugz is famous in. This book was also just really unrealistic. I know it's set in the near future, but in what world does a White Supremacist group make it to the Rez in their uniforms and destroys an ancient ancestral site and just...walks away? No one on the rez notices. PLUS then there are 5-6 other plot lines running throughout the book. None get resolved. 

The Indigenous culture of the Anishinaabe is beautiful. I loved the details of dancing, traditions, ceremonies, etc., and the relation to the online world Bugs plays in...but that was honestly the only good thing about this book.
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I really enjoyed this young adult novel. I found the story line very interesting. The characters were really easy to relate to as well. Overall I recommend this book
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Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of Walking in Two Worlds in exchange for an honest review.

First off, DON'T LISTEN TO MY OPINION HERE. Plot and character wise Walking in Two Worlds was great, it's just not something I can give a high rating because of my personal preferences as a reader. Even for a video-game book, this is very game play heavy which I know some readers really really enjoy but I can't visualize which means no matter how intricate or descriptively beautiful lengthy fight scenes are, they kind of drag.

If you do like video game books and creative fight scenes, read this! Everything outside of the gameplay was incredible so you'll love it.
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