Early Review and Giveaway: Playing Tyler by T L Costa

playing tylerPlaying Tyler by T L Costa
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Release Date: Jul 2, 2013
ARC Provided by NetGalley and Strange Chemistry
**Scroll down to enter the giveaway to win an ARC of Playing Tyler**

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games, and, well, that’s probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

D.G.’s Rating: 4 skulls = B+

Playing Tyler vaguely reminded me of Ender’s Game meets Ready Player One, but in the real world. I won’t tell you what I mean because I’ll give away the plot, but rest assured that this is a refreshing story with appealing characters, a very interesting premise and thought provoking questions about patriotism. This is a book that I think every teenager (and grown up) should read because it deals with important issues happening in the world today.

Tyler suffers from Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a disorder characterized by hyperactivity and impulsiveness. He’s having problems in school and at home. His older brother is in rehab and his mother is so damaged by her son’s addiction that Tyler has had to become the adult in the family. He’s a great kid, with a huge heart, understandably angry with his brother and mother but loving them all the same. Tyler hasn’t turned bitter even with all the horrible things that have happened to him.

The story is told from Tyler’s and Ani’s point of view. Tyler’s narrative is full of sentences that run into one another and jumbled thoughts, specially when he’s nervous. He gets distracted easily so even when he’s in grave danger, he notices irrelevant stuff like ugly vases or squishy couches. The author did an amazing job portraying the mind of a person with ADHD so the reader could understand his struggles.

The romance between Tyler and Ani was among the cutest I’ve seen in YA. They were just so insecure and their exchanges left me smiling like a dufus. I particularly laughed out loud at Tyler’s consternation after ordering a caramel macchiato on their first date:

Oh shit. Girly. It’s girly, isn’t it? That much sugar, that much milk. Shit. I should have asked for just a black coffee. Black coffee is plain, manly. Tastes like piss. But manly.

While Tyler is pursuing Ani, he has to deal with his brother’s addiction and the discovery that the game is more than it seems.  The second part of the book is more exciting with action packed scenes and terrible heartbreak. One particular part towards the end made me cry like a baby.

This story is particularly timely, becomes it refers to some of the issues we’ve seen in the news lately about spying, 21st century warfare, and whether patriotism can justify really heinous acts. Please don’t think that there is preaching or military bashing – on the contrary, Tyler is very patriotic and proud of his father’s service. But once he’s in the middle of a horrible situation, he has to decide for himself what is the right thing to do. I confess I understood little of this type of warfare and I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been paying enough attention to fully understand what’s going on. Maybe out of cowardice or plain laziness, I’ve been trusting that our government is making the right decisions. But given that our military-industrial complex employs hundreds of thousands of people, including companies that are lining their pockets, how can we trust that every decision they make is right and not motivated by greed or power? Like President Eisenhower said: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Playing Tyler reminded me to open my eyes and be more invested in the world at large. For that reason alone it will stay with me for a long time to come. I wholeheartedly recommend it!

D.G.’s Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

Thanks to NetGalley and Strange Chemistry for providing a review copy of this book!

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