Virtually Me

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Pub Date Feb 07 2023 | Archive Date Feb 21 2023

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Using personalized avatars, a group of kids look for a fresh start in school when a virtual reality academy opens after a pandemic.

This school year, Bradley, Edelle, and Hunter will be wearing virtual-reality headsets and attending a three-dimensional, simulated school while interacting as avatars. Having a customized avatar is a bonus as some students want to hide behind a new identity.

Bradley is eager for a brand-new identity. A cool avatar will allow him to escape the bullies who have made fun of him for years and gives him a fresh start to make new friends on his own terms.

Edelle is forced to attend the virtual school by her mom who says she’s too obsessed with being at the top of the “Best-Looking Girls” list circulating at school. Even worse, Edelle’s mom insists she chooses a generic avatar. Mortified by how her avatar looks, Edelle registers under a new name so no one can identify her. But will she lose her prized social status if no one can recognize her?

Hunter is known for his popularity, charm, and his lustrous mane of hair, except with his recent diagnosis of alopecia, his hair has begun to fall out, even his eyebrows. VR school allows him to maintain his popularity—and the illusion of a full head of hair—even if it means hiding behind an avatar. He tells his friends that once his grades are back up, he’ll return to school in person. But he wonders how being isolated will affect his relationships.

As Bradley, Edelle, and Hunter get to know each other in their virtual environment, they realize that the school is not all fun and games and the simulated environment just brings different problems than an in-person school. Each student will see themselves and their world through a new lens as they learn about what true friendship means and the difference between fitting in and belonging.
Using personalized avatars, a group of kids look for a fresh start in school when a virtual reality academy opens after a pandemic.

This school year, Bradley, Edelle, and Hunter will be wearing...

Advance Praise

"Amid a pandemic...Students attend classes via virtual reality and interact with one another by creating avatars...or disguises. When a gaming tournament forces [a] trio to work together they make surprising discoveries about themselves and each other. The protagonists' evolving views of friendship and self-acceptance will resonate with readers who struggle to be-or to find-themselves. Warmly supportive parents are a welcome bonus. A timely, feel-good tale of learning to accept oneself and others."


"Engaging novel...three adolescents attend an experimental virtual junior high school. The program has fascinating aspects, like team video game tournaments and replicated classrooms and gymnasiums. Concepts of individuality and peer perceptions are handled with humor and compassion. Bradley, Edelle, and Hunter evolve through their virtual interactions, learning emotional and social lessons that resonate in real life. Beyond it's wondrous simulations, at the heartfelt core of Virtually Me is the awkward, funny, and incomparable essence of being truly human."

Foreword Reviews

"A middle school ode to individuality fueled by remote learning options. Their tale follows three students, chronicling why each one enrolls in the fanciest virtual middle school imaginable. Seriously, socializing there is realistic and visceral, even down to a seamless virtual dance. Each narrator has different motivations—hating public school, “embarrassing” medical problems, parental interventions—but through it all, they begin examining what fuels their relationships. Messages about accepting people for who they are on the inside are ideal for the target tween/early teen group. There is a humanizing inclusion of the bully’s viewpoint, where a shallow popular kid experiences a middle grade dark night of the soul. A tone perfectly geared towards older elementary and young middle school students. A classic 'be yourself' tale, with enough VR bells and whistles to keep tweens interested."

—School Library Journal

"Thought-provoking read. This discerning examination of middle school social dynamics provides emotional and insightful throughways to difficult conversations surrounding mental health, friendship, and perception of self via three empathetic protagonists striving to fit in and learning that it's okay to be oneself."

—Publishers Weekly

"Amid a pandemic...Students attend classes via virtual reality and interact with one another by creating avatars...or disguises. When a gaming tournament forces [a] trio to work together they make...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781639930531
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 16 members

Featured Reviews

An experimental Virtual School has just begun, and several students from a local Middle School are attending for one reason or another. Illness, emotional health, grades, peer pressure; whatever the reason, most are there unwillingly--forced into it by concerned parents after the shut-down has been lifted (caused by the pandemic).

It's a chance to start over with a new look, and a new name, for some. Edelle was obsessed with looking beautiful, being voted "hottest girl" in school, and having followers on social media. Her mother forced her to look plain and boring; she chose the name Vanya.

Bradley was depressed, withdrawn, and hated attending school because he was teased by unthinking and unkind "popular and beautiful" people. Virtually, he became Daebak, a stylish, pink-haired pop star.

Hunter had stress and health issues on his mind; losing his hair. Online he was his former self; Hunter the popular, competitive, athletic, enthusiastic, only-beautiful-people-need-apply guy he'd always been. But it wasn't working as well as he'd hoped. And he really craved cheering crowds.

Jasper and Keiko are unknowns early on in the story, but they play important parts. It's going to be a very interesting year!

The story was immersive once I noted that each chapter is from the viewpoint of a different character, and it works well for this book. It offers points of view we may not see presented in one package.

4/5 Stars

Score: After a particular event, the story effectively ends dot dot dot, new scene after school ends and the following summer is over. What? It's the opposite of a cliff-hanger, because we are assured that nothing of note happened at all in that time, however unlikely we believe that to be.

Thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley for this preview of the uncorrected proof; the review is voluntary.

#VirtuallyMe #NetGalley
#ChadMorris #ChadMorrisAuth
#Shelly Brown #Shelly BrownAuth

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After schools shut down for the pandemic, a new and experimental "Virtual School" opens for middle school students. Like many middle school experiences, a first day at a new school can be an opportunity for reinventing oneself, and for the three main characters, that is definitely their plan. Made even easier by the choice of avatars and the elimination of in-person interactions, the characters in this story are even better set up to become whoever they want to be. Edelle, previously obsessed with popularity, is forced to change her appearance by her mother. Bradley had negative experiences at his old school related to teasing, but now he takes on the persona of a pop star. And Hunter has the opportunity to resume his ways of life prior to the health issues he currently is facing. With a fun video-game themed premise yet including all of the elements familiar to middle school readers, this book is a fun and exciting read for this age group. I would definitely recommend this book to parents and teachers of students in the grade 6-9 range who enjoy sci-fi books! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the chance to read and review this book!

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After having schools shut down due to a global pandemic, Bradley Horvath to surprised when he finds a package addressed to him, he quickly opens it to discover that inside is a VR headset, his invitation to virtual school. Before starting Bradley is allowed to upload a photo avatar of himself however he can change it as much as he wants to so when he enters virtual school he decides to take on the identity of Daebak a singer from his favorite K-pop group.

Edelle is obsessed with looking beautiful and she was constantly being voted one of the hottest girls at her school on a rating platform, now with virtual school she wants to be exactly the same but she is forced to change her appearance because her mom keep telling her to so she ends up posing as her friend Vanya.

Hunter is worried about going completely bald as he has alopecia now with Virtual school he is hoping to hide that. So when he enters virtual school he poses as himself and wears a cap to hide his bald spots. over time the three of them form a friendship and take part in a game hoping to win a trophy but when a disaster strikes there hopes and dreams might have to be put aside.

This book reminded my of The Circle in so many ways with the dynamic of are you who you say you are. This book has some good lessons such as being true to yourself and others. The characters are all very relatable and well thought out. Overall this book is a short and sweet read perfect for any middle grade and sci-fi lover.

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I liked the premise of this book. It connects well to the pandemic and many of the experiences children have had due to not attending in-person classes. While I liked some of the character development, most characters did not feel real. They felt more like caricatures as they had many stereotypical characteristics and personality traits. I think this is why the three main characters felt similar to one another. Although there were different perspectives, it was easy to forget whose perspective I was reading from.

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It took me a little while to get into this story, but once I did I really enjoyed it. It has a great message about what really matters in our relationships and being kind. It was also very relevant with pandemic, and using a situation like that to see what’s important. The authors make a wonderful writing team.

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#VirtuallyMe #NetGalley

A book that is set during the pandemic. Three students, Bradley, Edelle and Hunter start attending a virtual school. As avatars they each get to choose what they will look like, and what name they will go by. This gives them a chance to step outside themselves and be a bit braver than they really are.

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Virtually Me is a wonderful book, with a great message. Of course, it started off with the main character Bradley and his love of Kpop so I knew I would love it. Each of the kids were in the VR school for different reasons. And each of them had their own challenges that the authors did a great job of showing and then how they were able to triumph. Bradley and Edelle were great characters but I enjoyed how the authors wrote their parents too. They were concerned, involved, and approachable. Hunter’s brother, Ryker, was great too. Eva stole the show for sure, she was a doll. Virtually Me is a great story that kids and adults will enjoy.

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The pandemic has been hard on everyone but when a company is trying to market a new virtual school product a bunch of middle schoolers get the option to go to virtual school or in person school. However, this virtual school is like none anyone has seen before. You have to make an avatar of yourself and put up a screen name, this can be a avatar that looks like you or not and it can be you real name or not. This is a place to test, reinvent, hide, be safe, or be yourself, and this book touches on 5 kids doing just that.
I really like Shelly Brown and Chad Morris’ books as they as relevant and up to date on the topics of the youth today, but also teach you a bit of humility along the way. This book had some action and a more suspense as you watch the five interact and while some of the five’s purposes for being there are known up front not all are, and what will happen next year.

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“‘And I learned that being good is a lot more important than looking good.’ I took a deep breath. ‘I know, it sounds like a fridge magnet, but it’s true.’ Me. No filter. Smiling.”

Virtually Me is a clever, heartfelt, realistic fiction middle grade readers will enjoy! Three Jr. High students share their hopes, fears, and deepest secrets as they attend an experimental virtual school during the 2021 pandemic year. Through their experiences, they learn valuable lessons about self acceptance, valuing things other than appearance, reinvention, second chances, and true friendship. It’s a thoughtful story with great messages. There are even references to K-pop!

Bradley, Hunter, and Edelle all have their own reasons for attending virtual school. Ever since having a mean prank pulled on him in 3rd grade, Bradley has withdrawn himself and tried to remain in the background. He longs for friendship and acceptance. His secret dreams of sharing his talent for dancing and love of K-pop remain hidden. Attending virtual school gives him an opportunity to reinvent himself. He can design his avatar any way he wants and create a new, more hip persona.

Hunter is hiding a secret from his friends. He’s experiencing a form of alopecia most likely alopecia areata and is embarrassed about his patchy hair loss. He’s extremely competitive and for one so focused on appearance and winning, this trial is extremely difficult. Virtual school allows him to be his popular, competitive self yet hide his real appearance. But, his drive to win may just be his downfall.

Edelle is attending virtual school because her mom hopes to convince her that appearances aren’t everything. For the popular girl who lives for likes on social media, being forced to adopt a plain avatar and miss out on in person school is going to be difficult. Edelle is in for a huge shock when she learns what it’s like to be just average looking. When her supposed best friend who fawned all over her in real life doesn’t recognize her or give her the time of day, she has to decide what real friendship is.

This is one of the first middle grade books I’ve seen that subtly addresses the pandemic and what kids were going through during that time. I loved the lessons each kid learns as they navigate online school The virtual setting allowed the kids to really explore who they were. I liked how each one had a different problem to overcome which made them easily relatable. I also loved Jasper. He’s the glue that keeps everyone together and when you learn his reason for attending virtual school, it really drives home the messages the authors were trying to convey throughout. It’s well written, fun, and even enjoyable for adults to read. This is definitely one book I’d recommend to ages 10 and up. I received advanced complimentary copies from the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to provide a positive review. 4 1/2 stars

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Virtual reality school! This book explores the idea of an online school that looks and feels like a regular school but is attended from your own home while wearing a VR headset. The reader experiences it through the eyes of five very different kids:

Bradley Horvath is full of personality but has always been picked on or ignored because he is overweight. Until he changes the appearance of his avatar and goes by Daebak nobody knows that he loves K-pop, dancing, and is fun to be around. I loved getting to know Bradley and liked him from the first page.

Edelsabeth/Edelle Dahan-Miller has the opposite situation as Bradley. She is beautiful and popular, so nobody sees her for who she is inside. Her mom requires her avatar to be plain so she will learn to focus on other people and not just on looking cute. She is embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to know it’s her so she changes her name to Vanya.

Hunter Athanasopoulos plays lacrosse and loves to be the center of attention but doesn’t want kids to find out he now has bald spots from alopecia. He doesn’t want to be judged by his hair loss even though he judges everyone else based on their appearance and is only kind to people who are beautiful and popular.

Jasper is known for the yellow tracksuit he wears. He is kind, a peacemaker, and brings people together. He likes soccer and video games but attends virtual school for health reasons.

Keiko is the least developed character, but I would like to know more about her. She is moody, doesn’t talk much or show emotion, and is good at art.

I enjoyed reading this book. It pulls the reader in and keeps you there with fun descriptions. The kids trade off telling the story with each chapter in a chatty conversational way, so it never gets tedious or boring. It has a feel-good happy ending and teaches kids lessons along the way like what being a true friend means and seeing the people around you for who they are. 5 big stars! Thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing for an ARC to use for my review.

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I love when middle-grade books share a life lesson but aren't overt about it.

This book focuses on three teens - Hunter, Bradley, and Edelle. It is the height of the pandemic, and they are attending a virtual school. While other issues brought them to the virtual school besides the pandemic, it was a chance for them to start over again. It takes time for them to learn the lessons they are meant to learn, but I enjoyed watching them grow and appreciate life in a whole new way.

These three attended school together before the virtual school, but not all knew who the other was. Part of it is due to the names they gave themself in the virtual school; it was also how their avatar was displayed. Edelle's mom would not approve of an avatar that wasn't "plain" since she wanted Edelle to learn that life is more than how you look. Bradley loves K-Pop and went wild with pink hair and some cool dance moves. Hunter was the only one that didn't try to hide who he was via his avatar. However, because everyone knew who he was and how he acted outside of the virtual school, that had some repercussions for him down the road.

Jasper is a somewhat main character, but none of the chapters are from his point of view. However, he is integral in forming cohesiveness between friends and is just friendly to everyone. We learn more towards the end about Jasper, which is part of what brings everyone together.

This book addresses themes such as bullying, selfishness, image, and self-awareness. Each of the characters, even outside of the main three, contributes to a well-told story that anyone who reads it will walk away with some new perspectives.

We give this book 5 paws up! Wonderful read for everyone.

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Going to school online is rough. But what if you could go to school as an avatar? 5 kids enrolled in a virtual school that allowed just that. But each kid had something they were either hiding from, or needed to learn by being away from the social scene. Each child is given the opportunity to get to know each other for who they are as a person, not taking into account body, hair, illness, or social standing. I love the way we get to see how the kids can set aside assumptions and really make connections.

Having said that, there was a lot of suspended belief in this one. But overall it was a very positive message and I think my middle school kids would enjoy this one. While there are great lessons to be learned, there are also some really funny scenes in this book.

Thanks to Shadow Mountain and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Thank you to Net Galley and Shadow Mountain for an ARC of VIRTUALLY ME.

Chad Morris and Shelly Brown and the dynamic duo of middle grade authors.

I had no idea what to expect going into this book—and wow!—was I surprised.

This book hits the nail on the head for kids and self-acceptance. It's such a hard time in life, and we need more books like this that highlight how different people cope while feeling the same way.

One of the most brilliant things about this book is how each character is seemingly so different. But in the end we see that we're more alike than different in the end. Each of the kids in the virtual school has a unique goal—but things aren't exactly what they expected. We get to see good intentions go awry. And even when someone doesn't have good intentions, they might be dealing with something hard.

There's some bullying in the book—but I think it's handled well to show that this isn't the answer.

I kept (virtually on my Kindle) turning the pages to see what would happen next.

This is a must read!

I highly recommend this book for everyone! It's a joy to be different, right? Books centered on acceptance and friendship are among my favorite for middle grade.

Happy reading!

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Middle school stories tend to focus on one of three things: popularity, becoming comfortable with your identity, and hiding a secret you think will mark you as too different. This book hits on all three while also giving us a sort of idealized school environment. It is the best possible version of virtual schooling and what we would wish for all of our kids. Now, given that the "issues" addressed by the plot we won't be surprised by most of the directions that the plot takes. The characters develop in pretty predictable ways and thus don't have much depth. Even so, there is enough novelty to the plot to keep the reader engaged. It's worth a look, especially if you have a young reader who needs some encouragement in the direction of considering the difference between public perception and a person's internal reality.

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