Dreams Come to Life

AFK. (Bendy and the Ink Machine: Bk. 1). Sept. 2019. 304p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781338343946.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Buddy thinks it’s a dream come true when he’s hired by Joey Drew Studios as a gopher and an apprentice artist in post–World War II New York. Although people at the studio are strange, he finds a friend in Dot, and Buddy’s family (including his artist grandfather, newly liberated from a concentration camp) can use the money. Of course, things are not what they seem at the studio, as a series of events, from strange noises and creeping shadows to monstrous plots and mysterious disappearances, goes from frightening to downright deadly. Now that it’s too late, Buddy must find a way to send his cautionary tale out into the world—and possibly save his friend Dot before she too falls victim to the living ink. Fans of the online game Bendy and the Ink Machine will enjoy this noir backstory to the puzzle/horror game, which unashamedly leaves itself wide open for a sequel and probably a series. Unusual for a marketing tie-in, readers come to care about Buddy, and although the characterizations of the secondary characters are rather thin, it’s possible they may be more fully realized in subsequent volumes. This is for a very different audience than the author’s tween series “The Explorers” and is not suitable for ES readers. That said, even teens who don’t play the game will be drawn in by the creepy cover art.
VERDICT Considering its built-in audience, this one is sure to be in demand.

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