Review: Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao

Review: Last Gamer Standing by Katie ZhaoLast Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao

Published by Scholastic Paperbacks on September 21st 2021
Pages: 288

Twelve-year-old Reyna Cheng is the up-and-coming junior amateur Dayhold gamer, competing in a VR battle royale against AI monsters and human players alike. But despite Reyna's rising popularity and skills, no one know who she is. Gaming is still a boy's club and to protect herself against trolls, she games as the mysterious TheRuiNar.

When Reyna qualifies for the Dayhold Junior Tournament sponsored by her favorite team, she knows she's got what it takes to win the championship title and the $10,000 prize.

But when she's blackmailed and threatened to be doxed, having her personal identity revealed, by an anonymous troll, Reyna will have to deal with a toxic gaming community, family complications, and the increasing pressure to win as the tournament gets underway.

I wasn’t feeling well, so I wanted to listen to something fun. I couldn’t game so why not listen to a book about gamers? Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao is an Upper Middle Grade book about a gamer called Reyna. She wants to go pro and is at summer camp, taking part in the biggest amateur tournament. I read Warcross before and absolutely love the fictional VR/AR games these authors created. Dayhold is a battle royal game, where the last gamer standing is the winner, hence the title. Reyna wants to win.

What I love about the book is that it gives an authentic representation of what it’s like to be a female gamer in the competitive scene. It’s definitely not easy as a casual gamer but the level of toxicity rises once there’s more at stake (rankings, money…). This book doesn’t sugar coat it. It’s sad to think great gamers are denied their chance in the spotlight just because of who they are. Reyna, with her anonymous account, tries to bypass this prejudice.

It’s a tournament-style competition so you follow Reyna as she continues through the rounds. You learn more about the game, Reyna’s life and why she wants and needs to win, but also who her rivals are. It’s all neatly woven together, making it easy to follow. Reyna’s backstory and the subplot with her parents hits close to home and I loved this part.

The narration was great. When the main character of a story is Asian American, it really helps to have narrator who can pronounce the names and certain words as intended by the author. It adds another layer of authenticity. Sunny Lu did an excellent job.

Overall, I give Last Gamer Standing four stars. It’s an entertaining book that you’ll fly through. I recommend this to anyone who’s a gamer, who loves reading about fictional games, and who loves a strong female lead. It’s the perfect gift for a early teens with an interest in gaming.

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