Review by Booklist Review
Kinew's first novel for teens stands out in the field of speculative fiction with its respectful, celebratory, and nuanced exploration of cultures and communities all too often at risk of erasure (particularly Indigenous communities). In the virtual realm of the Floraverse, Bugz is an unbeatable warrior with seemingly limitless power to create mythical creatures and hardcore weapons. Her only real enemy is Clan:LESS, a group of alt-right gamers who despise women in gaming and who want nothing more than to rule the Floraverse. In real life, Bugz is an Anishinaabe girl living with her family on the rez, where she also feels out of place because of certain gender-based traditions. When she meets Feng, a Uyghur Muslim boy who has fled China, Bugz realizes she isn't the only one feeling trapped between two worlds. After finding out that Feng is a member of Clan:LESS, though, Bugz has to fight even harder to figure out her place in both the Floraverse and the real world and to sort out her relationship with Feng. Kinew (Go Show the World, 2018) explores real-world teen struggles with identity, toxic masculinity, and complicated family and cultural dynamics, as well as generational shifts relating to (and relying on) technology, all set against the backdrop of a post-pandemic, high-tech future.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In his YA debut, Kinew (The Reason You Walk, for adults), who is Midewin, centers powerful Anishinaabe teen Bagonegiizhigok "Bugz" Holiday, who's "walking in two worlds"--the real and the virtual. On the reservation where she lives with her family, including her elected Chief mother, Bugz is navigating insecurities about her body, her friendships, and her brother's cancer diagnosis. In the Floraverse, a sophisticated near-future virtual reality gaming world "modeled after living, growing things," Bugz is famous, earning micropayments from fans and dominating against the misogynist, racist alt-right group Clan: LESS, who make it a goal to take Bugz out of the game entirely. Using her nation's knowledge to marshal living beings in the 'Verse's natural landscape, Bugz pits herself against the group's artificial technology. But when Feng, part of Clan: LESS, leaves his real-life home in China to escape political persecution, and joins forces with Bugz, she must face her own fears about betrayal and loyalty, and Feng must decide where his loyalties lie--with his new love, Bugz? Or his seemingly loyal friends in Clan:LESS? This smart, entertaining speculative novel gives readers a unique and moving portrait of young life--and the possibilities for gaming life--from a tribally specific corner of the world. Ages 12--up. (Sept.)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A teen navigates different worlds: real and virtual, colonized and Indigenous. In the near-future real world, Bugz's family has clout in the community--her mom is their first modern-day woman chief, her father's a highly admired man, and her older brother is handsome and accomplished. Socially awkward Bugz, by contrast, feels more successful in the virtual gaming world of the Floraverse, where she has amassed tremendous power. Yes, her 'Versona has a slimmed-down figure--but Bugz harnesses her passion for the natural world and her Anishinaabe heritage to build seemingly unbeatable defenses, especially her devoted, lovingly crafted Thunderbird and snake/panther Mishi-pizhiw. Cheered on by legions of fans, she battles against Clan:LESS, a group of angry, misogynistic male gamers. One of them, Feng, ends up leaving China under a cloud of government suspicion and moving to her reservation to live with his aunt, the new doctor; they are Muslim Uighurs who have their own history of forced reeducation and cultural erasure. Feng and Bugz experience mutual attraction--and mistrust--and their relationship in and out of the Floraverse develops hesitantly under a shadow of suspected betrayal. Kinew (Anishinaabe) has crafted a story that balances heart-pounding action scenes with textured family and community relationships, all seamlessly undergirded by storytelling that conveys an Indigenous community's past--and the vibrant future that follows from young people's active, creative engagement with their culture. A thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots. (glossary, resources) (Science fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.