Gaming gets real ... and fun!


Lifelong friends Bexley Grayson (12) and Charlie Tepper (12) love spending time together ... especially when they can play Monsters Unleashed, a game similar to Pokemon Go. Turns out, the monsters liked to haunt old buildings, so Bex and Charlie high-tailed it to Grandpa Tepper's house. He had some old maps in the city. Up in Grandpa's attic, Charlie discovered this odd looking machine. Despite Grandpa's "don't touch anything" instructions, Charlie couldn't resist! With the flip of a switch, the monsters Bex had captured moved from the virtual world to the real one!

The monsters were now roaming the streets of Wolcott!! To make matters worse, only people who had played the game could see the monsters. Some were easy to recapture, but to nab the trickier ones (like OinkCats and SpiderFangs) they were going to need help. Except (1) other gamers didn't believe them and wouldn't help; and (2) the only gamer who did believe them was Willa Tanaka, Bexley's ex best friend. Things are NOT looking good!

Parent Perspective:
Preteens will love this fun, clever, and contemporary adventure. The gaming will draw them in, but the heart of the story is the friendship of the two main characters. Bex and Charlie have a natural give-and-take that verges on a healthy sibling relationship. Which is a lot more than can be said of Charlie's relationship with his brother Jason, who is a serious bully. Personally, I thought his stereotypical 'big brother' behavior was over the top. I was glad to see that his opinion of Charlie changed at the end, but there was a lot of damage done along the way.

Although more subtle, there is an interesting subplot vis-a-vis Bexley's relationship with Willa Tanaka. Bexley and Willa each make their feelings known, and I liked how the author didn't instantly move to "kiss and make up," even after Willa helped. There are other signs there that encourage the reader to look past the "outward signs."

Overall a fun, quick read that preteens - especially those getting ready for middle school - will enjoy.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Fantasy, adventure lovers will be just as anxious as Bexley and Charlie to find and capture those monsters. Anyone who's played Pokemon Go (or similar games) will find this entertaining and have them dreaming of other creatures that could come to life!

Content Awareness Factors:

There is some violence and blood, but nothing gruesome nor graphic. Charlie's other brother Jason is a bully. The barbs are pretty direct and hurtful, and his parents appear to ignore what is going on. It borders on verbal abuse and could make some readers very uncomfortable.

Type of Book:
A clever adventure that brings a pre-teen's imagination to life when game monsters come into the real world.
Educational Themes:

The creatures in the Monsters Unleashed game are mash-ups of other beings (monsters, animals). Have some fun and ask your preteen to create their own monster(s). What does it look like? What is its abilities? What is its weakness?

On a more realistic note, there are the themes of bullying and friendship (or ex-friendship). Charlie's family is dysfunctional and he is seriously bullied by his big brother. Why does he put up with it? What options might he consider - what would your child do if their friend lived like that? On the friendship side: Does Willa give off any signs that she might want to be friends again? if so, what? How should Bex react? Should she want to be friends again. Lots of open discussion can come from those questions.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
11 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
9 and Up
Purchase Recommendation:
Definitely borrow ... if you have a reader who loves gaming, especially things like Pokemon, this is a buy.

Title Attack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters

Gamer Squad, Book 1

Author Kim Harrington
Publisher Sterling Children's Books, Imprint Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. © 2017
ISBN 9781454926122
Material Paperback
Cost $6.95
Genres Adventure, Friendship, Games, Gaming and Puzzles
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