Opal, Shane and Moyo are classmates at the very prestigious Palo Alto Academy of Science and Technology (PAAST) and partners in entering the Make-A-Splash virtual reality contest, aspiring to win a million-dollar-prize, a channel of their own on WAVE (the new entertainment platform), and a private meeting with the elusive Howie Mendelsohn, inventor of WAVE. Each of the three is entering their senior year at PAAST with sights set on enrollment at top-tier universities when they graduate. Winning the Make-A-Splash contest, they think, will cement their acceptance at the schools of their choice.
Opal, however, has a special reason that she keeps to herself for wanting to win the contest. Howie Mendelsohn was one of the last persons to see her father (a close research associate) alive before he disappeared seven years previously. He has refused all queries from her about her dad, but she is convinced that a private interview with him will clarify what happened. She is, actually, hoping that her father is still alive somewhere and that Howie can steer her in his direction.
Competition to achieve the highest viewer ratings (and to win the contest) heats up as Shane is unexpectedly able to hack into millions of VR headsets to analyze biometric data gathered through facetracking users’ emotional reactions. He and his team use that information to redesign their Behind the Scenes broadcast and ratchet up their score. As their goal appears increasingly achievable, they find themselves asked to compromise and revise their project to align it more closely with Palo Alto Labs objectives. Conflicts within the team emerge and personal relationships are tested and changed.
YA readers who are interested in VR, coding, robotics, etc. will be fascinated by this book; those who are not will be interested in the description of the Luddites, who are on the offensive to rid society of such. Societal issues involving social media, privacy of data, the future of the workforce, and the role of the government in restricting research and implementation are addressed, as is the vision of creating a virtual world to replace a flawed real world. YA readers will also relate to the characters who are worried about resume-building, applying for college admission, meeting parental expectations, etc.
Some violence is described. Offensive language consists of fuck, shit, damn, goddamn, douchebaggery and all their various iterations. The name of Jesus Christ is used several times in a pejorative fashion. Sexual references to Opal and Moyo spending nights together are not explicit. References are made to female breast sizes and jerking off. At one point a guy rushes the stage to grope Opal during one of her VR broadcasts. These will require consideration by some before inclusion in library collections.
Categories: Books with No Objectionable Content, Civil Rights, Crime, Diversity, Grief, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Science, Social Media