with fun retro gaming illustrations by Alexis Jauregui.
It’s been a few weeks since Nat came out to her middle school best friends as a gamer. She and Lucy have a fierce rivalry going on in Alienlord, a battle royale shoot ’em up, and the two of them, along with Jess and Celia, have a weekly livestream showcasing their efforts as Gamer Girls. Jess is one of those people who’s good or at least competent at everything, so she plays from time to time, too. Artistic, creative Celia is pretty terrible despite her best efforts, but she and Jess and Lucy all want to support Nat’s dream of being a famous video game streamer, and gather weekly towards this end.
When Celia discovers a new cozy game by MegaBox, the makers of Alienlord, it’s like a dream come true for her. Monster Village is a game where you can design and create your own town and assets, and collect the monsters who come to visit, a la Animal Crossing. Celia gets really into the game, and gets really good. Finally, she thinks, she can be a gamer in her own right and contribute more to the friends’ gaming channel.
So she’s pretty surprised when Nat and Lucy don’t seem anywhere near as enthused as she is about the new game, despite Celia’s best efforts to include them. When MegaBox announces a big Monster Village competition, Celia absolutely wants to do it, and feels hurt by what she sees (correctly) as her friends’ lack of interest and, worse, lack of support. Will her efforts to find common ground only serve to drive a greater wedge between them?
Oh gosh, this book gave me such strong flashbacks to middle school, with a strong layer of modern gaming issues on top of it. I was both so proud of Celia’s independence and so scared for her, sharing her fears about the strength of her friendships as well as her resentments over not having her interests supported despite the support she gave to others. I loved how her family admitted their own faults and how they all learned from their mistakes, and how Celia chose to continue showing love and support while still staying true to herself. I didn’t exactly ugly cry in the last chapter, but I certainly adored how Celia modeled the best parts of friendship without sacrificing her own interests and priorities.
I also really appreciated how Andrea Towers made a point of the fact that people who play cozy games like Monster Village and Animal Crossing are gamers, too. I’m neither a cozy gamer nor a PvPer — give me a good MMO like Lords Of The Rings Online or a narrative, fixed ending mystery game any day — but I loved how the author made sure to include video games of all sorts under her gamer umbrella. This inclusivity was also effortlessly applied to the kids’ everyday lives, making for a Middle Grade novel that feels fresh and relevant for today’s readers. I loved this book, and can’t wait for more in the series.
Gamer Girls: Monster Village by Andrea Towers was published May 9 2023 by Andrews McMeel Publishing and is available from all good booksellers, including