Cover Image: Gamerville


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Member Reviews

Max is a teen who loves video games and competes against others online, staying up until all hours and gorging on sodas and snacks. His parents begin to worry about the direction he’s headed and sign him up for summer camp where devices and screens are not allowed. Much to Max’s chagrin, he’s shipped off to the camp and has to stage an escape to make it to the finals of his game championship across the river.

I loved Swim Team and was very excited to see another Johnnie Christmas graphic novel. I think he delivers on the artwork and the subject matter, but a lot of things just don’t add up in the end of the story. There are several storylines going on at once and he wraps them up fairly quickly. I feel like the insight into Max as a gamer comes from a place of someone who does not play games, and it feels slightly like an adult telling kids about gaming. Children might see through it and not believe the things that are being said, or engage with the story because it seems disingenuous. Also, when he basically escapes from the camp and gets on a boat, no one ever gets upset about it, including his parents. That is not realistic, at all. I feel like this storyline needs a bit of revamping.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC.

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5 stars

Johnnie Christmas has gifted the middle grade readership with another fantastic and of the moment graphic novel, this time focusing on the perils of technology. What happens when one's whole life plays out in a video game? When they are constantly dehydrated, barely walking 200 steps in a whole afternoon/evening, and sitting in isolation? Young Max and his collaborators are here to answer all of these pressing questions and more.

Max is absolutely obsessed with gaming, and to his credit, he's very good at it. Just before he's supposed to participate in a competition, his parents ship him away to Camp Reset and wow does he need that aptly named adventure. This kid is hooked on his tech and can't seem to spark joy with other people let alone the world in which they all actually exist. Readers follow Max from his video game paradise to his on-ground nightmare in this device-free camp, and then, well, to another space entirely.

I loved _Swim Team_, and while the topic is distinct, there are some pleasing parallels. Max is in a new environment, is faced with challenges, and has to learn how to connect with others. His journey is both entertaining and educational, and I love the fact that the world gets another middle grade male protagonist. As a person who teaches children's, middle grade, and YA lit to college students (and has for almost two decades), I can attest to the fact that the modern pickings on this front are somewhat slim. This book is enjoyable but also fills a long empty niche.

This is another winner from Christmas, and I am already looking forward to reading what this author has to share next.

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I enjoyed Johnnie's Christmas's last graphic novel, "Swim Team", so I was really excited to get my hands on this one!

I equally enjoyed this story. The illustrations were cute and the colors were gorgeous. I liked the emphasis on nature and natural settings. Summer camps are a classic setting for coming-of-age stories, and I think Johnnie did a nice job setting this story apart from others with Max, Dylan and Zanzi's arcs. I liked the callbacks to video games in some of the artwork - the minecraft / donkey-kong esque designs on some pages - but I was anticipating a different story altogether. In Gamerville, Max seems to learn the importance of friendship and teamwork, but I was hoping for more emphasis on natural, healthier living and lifestyle (ex: more of him ~reaching for the apple~ at the end).

Overall, a nice book to recommend to some of my young readers.

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In this graphic novel, we meet Max, whose loves video games. His favorite is Lone Wolf of Calamity Bay, and he's dedicated himself to the game, playing through the night, and has made the semifinals of the Gamerville Tournament. His parents are concerned, and his mother, who is overprotective after homeschooling him for years, thinks he needs to be outside more. Max doesn't have many friends at school, but when fellow gaming club members Rosa and Armand find out that he's made the semifinals, they offer to coach him. Another student at the school, Wilder, is the reigning champ of the game, and constantly gives Max a hard time for being geeky. Once he makes the finals, Max rebrands his look at "Max Lightning" and makes plans to attend the tournament. Sadly, his parents put an end to his aspirations by making him attend Camp Reset to get him away from the adverse effects of screens. They don't care in the least that he's made the tournament. At the camp, he meets Dylan, who has a past and few friends, and Zanzi, whose great-great-grandfather started the camp. There are lots of old traditions, like uniforms, a Toy Tower, and a talent show, which Zanzi wants to uphold. There's even a tortoise, Major, who has been at the camp for 100 years! When Zanzi's friends want to embrace some new ideas, like doing a Tip Top dance at the talent show instead of reenacting Peter Pan, she's upset, and this is exacerbated when her older brother Byron tells her about plans he has to update the facilities. Meanwhile, Max has figured out that the Gamerville tournament is being help on the other side of the lake, and he has a week to figure out how to make his escape. When Dylan introduces him to RPGs that aren't online, Max makes a campaign strategy to get across the lake, and starts to secretly gain skills and enlist help. When Dylan's nemesis, Ari, is appointed keeper of the Toy Tower, Dylan is upset, and convinces Max to help him get into the Tower, since Max needs to confirm his entry in the Gamerville Tournament, something he can only do if he retrieves his Game Guy device that is locked in the Tower. Zanzi's friends have abandoned her, and when Major dies, she is distraught. Dylan and Max find a way into the tower through long abandoned mines, which they discovered when Max passed out from dehydration (which is an ongoing problem for him) and fell into a cave, surviving because he landed on an old mattress. Having made contact with Rosa, Max is able to get to Gamerville when Rosa and Armand come to get him in a boat. Zanzi is angry that Max is leaving, but agrees to go with the group to watch Max compete. The camp, alarmed that Max has run away, alerts Max's parents, who go to Gamerville, knowing that's where their son has gone. They allow Max to compete. In the game, Max realizes for the first time that the NPCs in Calamity Bay need to be rescued more than he needs to get the various treasures, because of something Rosa has said. Wilder thinks he has won the game, but will the judge of the game weigh Max's accomplishment of saving citizens against Wilder's larger amount of treasure?
Strengths: Any book that involves children obsessed with video games has a built in audience of the millions of children obsessed with video games. Often, these children are also big graphic novel fans, so this is perfect. The fact that Max gets into a gaming tournament is pure wish fulfillment, even though he is thwarted by his evil parents who want him to do a screen detox. There are good messages in this about controlling anger, making friends, and even exploring the outdoors, so a lot of thought went into this story. The drawings have lots of details, and do a great job of depicting both the camp and the Calamity Bay settings. Bonus points for the history of the camp and a long lived tortoise, although Major's death was sad.
Weaknesses: The timeline of Max getting in to the camp was forced, even though the mother claims she had to call in a lot of favors to get him in, and the fact that it was located so close to the Gamerville location was overly coincindental. Will young readers who like video games care? No. They will just vibrate to Max's early assertion that "When I grow up, I'll play video games whenever I want." Also, I needed to know more about why Max was prone to dehydration dizziness.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who liked Hansen's My Video Game Ate My Homework or Ali-A's Adventures: Game On graphic novels. I much preferred this author's Swim Team, but but reading about video games is at least better than having children PLAY video games.

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