VIRTUALLY ME, by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, Shadow Mountain, Feb. 7, 2023, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A group of teens learn valuable lessons when they attend virtual school in Virtually Me, by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown
The pandemic was rough on everyone, especially since school went from being a fun place where you could hang out with your friends to a bunch of heads in small rectangles all trying to talk at once. For Bradley, Edelle, Hunter, Jasper, and Keiko, that’s about to change.
A mysterious box arrives at each of their houses, and they’re invited to attend a virtual school. More than just being online, they’ll be able to create an avatar of themselves and interact with their friends and other classmates in real time using VR headsets.
For each of them, that presents an opportunity to become someone they’re not, or someone they haven’t been. For Bradley, it’s a chance to come out of a self-imposed shell. Edelle hopes everyone will see her for who she really is, not just for how she looks. Hunter is looking forward to pretending he’s still the person he was last year. Jasper wants to get over past assumptions. And for Keiko, it’ll allow her to disappear into the crowd.
For all of them, it’s a chance to see just how much they’ve assumed about each other in the past and maybe an opportunity to become friends. —Synopsis provided by Shadow Mountain
Nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic was easy. Absolutely nothing. But it was especially hard for kids, with the majority of them attending online school for at least some of the time.
In Virtually Me, the teens are returning to school after the pandemic, but are attending VR school for varying reasons. And though they have different motivations, the school is pretty cool — way more appealing than online Zoom sessions.
Virtually Me is told from the alternating viewpoints of Edelle, Bradley and Hunter. And the trio share similar issue — personal appearance. Edelle’s mom is concerned about Edelle’s obsession over her appearance. She’s making her pair down her avatar to the basics. Bradley is the big kid that everyone makes fun of. His parents don’t care what his avatar looks like as long as he’s happy. And Hunter, he just wants everything to be the same as it always was. But that’s not real life.
The three main characters are fairly well developed and easy to relate to — though Hunter does come off like a jerk most of the time. Each of them goes through an evolution of sorts that makes them more likeable in the end. While Jasper and Keiko don’t tell the story, they are an integral part of it, and the book is better for them being in it.
Virtually Me is a thoughtful read that should appeal to older middle readers and younger YA.
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