Keep telling yourself – it’s just a game…it’s just a game.
Playing Tyler has such a great premise. As soon as I read the back of the book blurb I was desperate to read the story. Tyler is having a very difficult time; his teenage years are not at all filled fun and laughter. His talented brother Brandon is in rehab, his dad is dead and his mum is absent, physically and emotionally, a lot of the time. School is no refuge for Tyler either; the teachers and kids treat him like he’s a freak or an idiot. It’d be easier for them if he just kept popping the Ritalin and sat quietly. But the drugs don’t work for Tyler – functioning without them is tough but with them he’s just not himself.
Tyler’s salvation has come in the form of Rick, his mentor and the person he trusts most. Rick takes the time to listen to Tyler, to help him, and teach him to fly. Flying is where Tyler feels free, so he’s counting on Rick’s promise to help him get into flight school. He jumps at the chance to help test a new flight simulator piloting drones for the military.
Child prodigy Ani, an uber-gamer struggling to fit into college, has designed the new game. She’s too young to fully appreciate the social side of campus life. Her isolation isn’t helped by her work for Mr Anderson’s company designing and installing the simulators. Once she’s installed a system she’s to have no further contact with the tester. The problem is, Tyler and Ani seem to have a connection, one that they both very much need. Mr Anderson won’t mind too much, surely, if Ani disobeys this one little rule.
It quickly becomes apparent that there’s much more to the game than either Tyler or Ani realised. It’s also not long before their relationship puts them both in serious danger. They both have to make some very hard choices that will affect the rest of their lives. Loyalties have to be reassessed. As they struggle with the situation they find themselves in, their characters develop and they bring out the best in each other.
There are lots of things I think are absolutely brilliant about Playing Tyler. The relationship between Tyler and Ani is great (and not a love triangle in sight, thank you!). It’s told from two viewpoints, so both Tyler and Ani get their say. The way that Tyler’s struggle to express himself is written felt very real; I could empathise with his frustration and the way he sometimes exploded. I also enjoyed the wrestling with conscience and notions of morality that these young people have to do. The themes in the book are huge, nothing less than life and death. The story moves quickly, and the tension builds to a huge climactic confrontation. In fact, my only slight criticism is that after such a massive scene the final couple of chapters are a bit anti-climactic. But that’s small fry compared to how much I enjoyed the book.
Playing Tyler is available now in Paperback. My thanks to Strange Chemistry for sending me a copy to review.