Cure for the Common Universe – Christian McKay Heidicker – Simon and Schuster – Published 14 June 2016
Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab . . . ten minutes after he met a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him. Jaxon’s first date. Ever.
In rehab, he can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.
If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.
Prepare to be cured.
Cure for the Common Universe takes common YA tropes and turns them on their heads with humour, a million gaming references and an anti-hero who is truly awful (but only too identifiable).
Jaxon is being sent to video game rehab. Just moments after almost winning the latest game with his guild and asking a girl out on a date – for the first time ever. He is determined to get out of v-hab as quickly as possible. He has just four days to accumulate one million points by attending group therapy, winning competitions, eating healthy and (really?) running. But don’t worry, he’s got this and nobody’s going to stand in his way.
Jaxon isn’t your typical, loveable nerd. He’s lazy, rude, oblivious to the people around him and yet totally realistic. Surrounding Jaxon at v-hab are an assortment of characters from the bullying jocks to his own weirdly wonderful guild members – girls who are strong and stand up for themselves and what they believe in, a heroin addict, a group leader who is a master gamer himself and a young boy who hangs off Jaxon’s every word (or command). They are at once stereotypical and yet push outside of what we expect from YA characters.
The setting is awesome, video game rehab set up like one giant video game in the middle of the desert sounds. Kart racing, paintball, sandcastle building competitions, sign me up! I must admit that 90% of the gaming references went over my head, but I know gamers will love this book, and even those with little gaming experience, such as myself, can enjoy this creative and thought-provoking novel.
And while the ending leaves one hanging, wondering what happened and what could happen next, it reminds the reader that this story doesn’t end with a happy ever after, it doesn’t end easily or neatly. Change isn’t as easy as we would like, real life is never like in the games (or books), and black and white is never as two-sided as we like to pretend. There is the possibility of Jaxon making a great turn around…and then we find that maybe things aren’t that easy. There is the chance of a great, all-consuming love story…only to discover that fate-destined first meetings don’t always mean happy ever after. There is the faint smell of a heroic rescue…yet princesses don’t need rescuing and sometimes the hero isn’t all that heroic.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Video games, addictions, rehabilitation, sexism, anti-heroes.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Crude and sexual references. Coarse language, f***, s***, dou***, ass****.
Published: 8 March 2016 by Penguin Random House UK Children’s.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 320 pages.