Friday, April 26, 2013

Bubble World

Bubble World
Carol Snow
$17.99, Hardcover
Henry Holt and Co. , 2013

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12+

Description: Freesia’s life is perfect. She wakes up in her gigantic beach side house on the tropical island of Agalinas each morning to the cooing of her two pet peacocks and a breakfast coffee served in bed by her mother. Every day is blissful sunshine and she gets to spend it buying clothes upon clothes at fancy dress shops throughout town. When she goes to school she is involved in cultural immersion classes in which she gets to do stuff like eat Korean food. However, her life on the island lately has been having some glitches. Here and there are sudden blackouts. Some students have been there one day and disappeared the next. But most frightening of all is the day that Freesia looks in the mirror and doesn’t see herself anymore—her perfect body and looks are gone, replaced by a slightly chubby version of her with—gasp!—fizzy hair and bad skin. However, Freesia knows that it is better to not think about things too hard. Unfortunately for her though, her perfect existence is about to pop.

Opinion: Bubble World is . . . odd. Unfortunately for it I think that it might lose some readers because of its oddness. The book starts off very unusually. Freesia and her world are just weird. It’s never clearly stated (in the beginning) if her world is some future perfect utopia or if it’s all in her head or if it is a real world in the future. Freesia has her own weird technology (“bubbles” that are her version of a phone—it automatically shows her where and what her friends and enemies are doing), she’s got her own language, her schooling seems to be made up of shopping and partying, and her world even has its own social customs (as couples become “linked” together and if they break up they automatically become enemies). The other problem with the beginning of the book is that Freesia is so self-centered and vapid. You really want to just kill her or at least smack her pretty hard. It’s such an odd start to a book that you don’t know what is going on or what to expect. However, things pick up when a glitch in her world sends Freesia into the real world where she is known as Francine. Turns out Freesia is living in a total virtual reality called Bubble World. It is an experimental learning environment where a teen is emerged in a bubble (which takes up their entire bedroom) and are hooked up to machines and they are supposed to be participating in a highly educational and individualized program in this virtual reality called Agalinas. Freesia doesn’t like finding herself awake on the other side—in real life. She is so separated from her parents (who are nothing like the perfect ones in Bubble World) and her sister who calls her an “it” or a “thing.” When given the chance to go back into the program she jumps at it but doesn’t take the mind wiping drug to make her forget about the real world and what she discovers is shocking. Her best friend and potential boyfriend has been manipulating the system and he knows all about the reality of Bubble World—the creator is taking their parents' money and leading them to believe they are really being highly educated when, in fact, they aren’t learning anything. Unfortunately for them the creator finds out about their knowledge and permanently deactivates their accounts. At first, Freesia is only concerned with getting back into Bubble World but the creator says she broke her contract. When her mother discovers how educationally stunted Freesia really is—and a rival blogger beats her to the story—she realizes a new goal to point out what a fraud Bubble World is. In the end, Freesia does get a chance to go back in but she finds a completely different world than the one she called home and begins to wonder if her real home is the one she exited years before. The only really bad part about this book is how it opens so weirdly and could lose some readers before they get to the good part. Freesia starts off as a vapid girl but, in the end, ends up growing. When she discovers what her best friend looks like in person the old Fressia would be repulsed but the new Freesia actually still cares about him. The world that Snow has created is amazing! The idea of a guy making money and being irresponsible toward his clients was intriguing. The only thing that I didn’t like was that Freesia’s reason for going into Bubble World in the first place wasn’t really explained all that well. All we get is that her long time best friend starting hanging out with a new popular girl and the popular girl made her choose and she didn’t choose Francine. While that is sad and a fact of life sometimes among friendships are we really to believe that she was so depressed (?) that her parents agreed to letting their daughter enter a virtual world where she remained for years? That part seems a little too farfetched to believe. However, overall this book was a surprisingly good read and I can't wait to see what my teen reviewers think.

Thanks to the people at Henry Holt for the ARC for the YA Galley Group!

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