Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena

Farrar. Jul. 2022. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374388751.
Gr 4-8–Clip and Sadie Chu may be siblings, but they have nothing in common—nothing, save for laser tag. But what their friends see as a fun game, Clip and Sadie view as a way to prove who is the best Chu. When the Blackwood Gaming Arena opens, promising the most epic virtual reality laser tag games ever, the siblings compete fiercely to reach the top of the leaderboard first. When they start seeing a strange boy in the laser tag arenas, they slowly realize he’s not just part of the game: this boy is trapped in the game, and it’s up to Clip, Sadie, and their friends to get him out—if they can get out themselves. Dao is a bright voice in middle grade fiction, crafting characters and plot in a way that feels effortless. The supporting cast is as well developed as Sadie and Clip, and the different laser tag games create vivid, immersive settings throughout. Clip, Sadie, and the dynamics of their Vietnamese American family work are just as engaging as the dramatic laser tag scenes, and the combination of these elements creates a well-paced story where readers are equally invested in the emotional growth of the characters and the action-packed plot.
VERDICT A fresh title that weaves elements of sports stories and sci-fi with realism and beautifully developed characters, in a way that makes this story irresistible.

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