Warcross, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Warcross, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Winning teen girl drives cyberpunk virtual reality thriller.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Warcross explores how video games and social media might evolve in the near future. The novel deals with issues of privacy and surveillance.

Positive Messages

Keeping secrets from friends and family is dangerous and unproductive. Friends and teammates try to understand one another's needs and provide support in difficult times.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Emika Chen is smart, resourceful, brave, and highly competent. A bounty hunter, she uses her hacking skills against criminals. She's motivated yet impulsive, and sometimes finds herself in over her head.


A light mix of online and real-life mayhem. An assassin wounds a bodyguard with a gunshot. An explosion injures a number of tournament contestants.


Em and Hideo are physically attracted to each other and spend a lot of time flirting. In one scene, they make out and and he "pins me against the couch" and she senses his thoughts and emotions (they have that mutual ability) -- "glimpses and glimmers of his hands against my skin, running along bare thighs" -- until he pulls away, saying, "I'm getting you into more than you than you bargained for." In another, they soak in an onsen, a Japanese hot spring, at his parents' home. Em takes her clothes off in the bathhouse and comes out in a robe, while Hideo is already in the hot spring. Em narrates: "Hideo looks politely away, giving me time to remove my robe and sink into the hot water." He "leans in to plant kisses on my neck" and pulls her close. "I can't remember when we start kissing or when we stop, or when he leans against me, made me weak, whispering my name." The scene then shifts to Hideo revealing a tragic memory of his brother. 


A dozen or so instances of "hell" and one or two of "bastard" and "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Celebrating gamers drink alcoholic beverages, including champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Warcross is the first volume of a futuristic cyberthriller by Marie Lu, author of The Young Elites and Legend. There are a few violent scenes: video game mayhem, a real-life assassination attempt, an explosion that injures some young contestants. Strong language is mostly "hell," with "s--t" once or twice. Gamers celebrate with champagne. Two teens flirt and share a few passionate embraces, including in one brief scene when they're submerged in a hot spring without their clothes on, with only kissing described.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3-year-old Written bylostintomes December 4, 2018

A blast to read! Full of games, romance, mystery and action!

This is the book that Gamer Girls have been waiting for and knowing that Marie Lu has a background in video games made this even more satisfying to read. I will... Continue reading
Parent Written byJ. G. June 8, 2018
Kid, 12 years old March 19, 2019


In Warcross by Marie Lu, an 18-year-old girl named Emika Chen who is a bounty hunter and hacker hacks herself into the opening ceremony of Warcross, a virtual r... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybubblyhamezpuzzle September 14, 2018


I've been reading the book for a while and there isn't to many issues, except i'd prefer if they used less language. but other than that, it... Continue reading

What's the story?

As WARCROSS opens, bounty hunter Emika Chen finds herself on the brink of eviction from her apartment and complete financial disaster. But when she impulsively hacks the opening ceremonies for the international Warcross Championship, she unintentionally reveals herself in front of a global online audience. She becomes a pop sensation overnight and is whisked off to Tokyo to be a wild card contestant in the tournament. On top of that, Warcross inventor Hideo Tanaka takes a personal interest in her, one that will threaten the entire championship and put Em directly in the path of danger.

Is it any good?

Cyberpunk fell out of favor for a while, but this futuristic thriller jump-starts the genre and sends it careering in a promising new direction. Marie Lu has proven her skills with dystopian fiction and pseudo-medieval fantasy, and now she displays a steady hand with virtual reality in Warcross. Lu has created a winning protagonist in Em, and her perceptive and plucky narrative voice keeps the story moving, even when the action turns a little talky. Suspense and romance take a while to rev up, but eventually Warcross is firing on all cylinders. Readers should be aware that the book ends with a cliffhanger, but it's a doozy, one almost guaranteed to compel fans to return for the second installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Warcross depicts futuristic online interactions. How can people cope with the rapid pace of technological innovation?

  • Why do people like to play computer games? Should there be limits on how long kids can play them during the day?

  • How might strong virtual reality inhibit privacy? What can be done to protect privacy online?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers and sci-fi

Themes & Topics

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