A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that OTHERWORLD is the first volume in a new sci-fi series by actor Jason Segel and veteran writer Kirsten Miller, authors of the Nightmares! series of middle-grade thrillers. Here a teen named Simon seeks to rescue his best friend, Kat, who's stuck in a dangerous virtual realm. Much of the action takes place online, where the characters fight to survive attacks by magical beings, while their comatose bodies wait for their return in the real world. Strong language includes frequent variants of "s--t," a few instances of "hell," "damn," "a--hole," "bastard," and "goddamn," and one or two uses of "f--k" in especially stressful situations. Sexual content is minimal: Simon and Kat kiss and sleep fully clothed together.
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What's the story?
At the start of OTHERWORLD, Simon can't understand why his best friend, Kat, won't have anything to do with him anymore. She's hanging with a different crowd at school, and her controlling stepfather warns Simon to keep his distance. Kat is gravely injured in a freak accident, and then outfitted with sophisticated virtual reality gear designed to keep her mind engaged while her body is comatose. Simon vows to search the online realm known as Otherworld until he finds Kat and rescues her avatar, reuniting her mind and body. Soon Simon is traveling between realms, trying to stay alive online lest his physical body die from the trauma it experiences.
Is it any good?
Cyberthrillers seem to be making a comeback, and this variant of the old "is it a game, or is it reality?" gambit tries to find new juice in the genre. It isn't always successful, relying on standard fantasy tropes and scenes of corporate skullduggery, but Otherworld has lots of appeal with its snarky dialogue and twisty plotting. The book would benefit from a stronger presence from Kat, who seems too much the standard damsel in distress, but Simon is a protagonist worth following through a series of online adventures.
Readers familiar with cyberpunk may wish for a newer wrinkle, but many more will be primed for the next book in the series from Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Otherworld depicts virtual reality technology. What are the positive and negative aspects of ultra-realistic online gaming?
How far would you go to rescue your best friend? Would you be willing to put yourself in danger? Who else might be able to help?
Do companies always warn consumers about the possible side effects or dangers of their products?
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