When I was in grade school, my best friend and I wrote a series of stories that we titled, “The Game Masters”. They were silly stories about how we and our friends would enter video game worlds. I’m sure there was a reason, but I can’t remember it at all. I think at some point some monsters came along and were, like, trying to destroy the digital world or something. I’m certain that the stories would be excruciatingly embarrassing if I were to reread them today.
The reason I mention this is because one day, at a school book fair, my friend picked up a book called, “Invitation to the Game” and read the back cover. She subsequently thrust the book at me and told me to read because that blurb on the back of the book sounded strangely like our series of stories. Basically, a group of friends enters a digital “video game” world. We were shocked, so much so that I just had to buy the book and check it out. As it turned out the plot of the book wasn’t even the tiniest bit like our story (the “video game” was a kind of virtual world and that was the only tiny similarity), but I wound up being extremely happy with my purchase because the book was brilliant. A few of the themes went over my head as a child, but I’ve reread the book at least two dozen times as I’ve grown up, and the differences in personal maturity make the book that much better every time.
Lisse is our protagonist, the narrator of the story. She and a group of friends (for some the term is loose) graduate from school together and are shipped off into the work world…or so they think, at first. The world has become a dystopian future where the overwhelming majority of young graduates are designated as permanently unemployed and sent off to live on an extremely tiny government pittance. The group of kids decide to stick together and pool their resources, and somewhere along the line are invited to take part in an underground virtual experiment called “The Game”.
The reason I loved Lisse so much as a child, and continued to love her as I grew and matured, is because she reminds me so much of myself. Amongst her group there is a would-be chemist, a would-be doctor, a would-be agriculturist, and a would-be architect, amongst others, but Lisse graduated with no idea of what she might become. She was an artist at heart with no set discernible skill (she was smart, but not a genius at any one thing like her comrades). She tells the story through the eyes of someone who doesn’t understand what her place in things is, which is how I felt most of my life. In the end she winds up serving a very important, if unexpected, purpose, and that really hit home from the very first time I read it.
If you get a chance, I definitely recommend picking up this book. It’s a wonderfully written tale with lots of surprises and lots of heart.