Anyones Game by Sylv Chiang (and illustrated by Connie Choi)
Expected publication: September 11th 2018 by Annick Press
What’s up with Cali? Why does she keep changing her gamer tag?
It’s summertime, and even though his good friend Cali moved to another city, Jaden can connect with her online almost every day to play their favorite game, Cross Ups. His mom has loosened her rules on how often he can play, and he has an amazing new controller that will make him even better at tournaments. But then he gets roped into a dorky summer camp with his buddy Hugh, and Cali starts acting really weird . . . So when a last-minute tournament spot opens up in Cali’s city, Jaden jumps at the chance to go.
But things go badly from the start. Jaden loses his controller on the train, and his reunion with Cali is awkward. She’s unhappy, and Jaden can’t figure out why, especially when she’s getting better and better at Cross Ups—and may even win the tournament.
I was so excited when Annick press sent me an advanced readers copy of Anyones Game in exchange for an honest review. I loved Tournament Trouble and I feel like some of the issues focused on in this book are very relevant right now in the gaming community and many others, some of which have affected me personally. That and I couldn’t wait to see what Jaden and his friends did next.
Sylv Chiang returns with her brilliant pacing, relatable characters and sometimes conflicted and confused narrator Jaden who feels like he could just jump out of the page, alongside talented artist Connie Choi who’s artwork once again really helps to illustrate events, this time things are a little more serious but Connie and her enjoyably distinctive art style are a feast for the eyes as ever while also really catching the emotions in those moments as well. I wouldn’t have thought the first book could be improved upon but I have never been more pleased to be proven wrong.
Characters have already been established in the first book but we get nice little short reminders throughout about who everyone is and what events have previously transpired which I think is great in any sequel but especially so in books for younger children. When I was younger a year felt a lifetime away and I could barely remember what happened the month before, let alone a year before with any great detail, (I’m not much better now). These little refresher sentences also makes Anyones Game a good jumping on point for new readers and even easier to pick up and read straight away.
In Tournament Trouble we see how Jaden does at his first tournament and the kind of things he experiences as a gamer, in Anyones Game we see that Cali, as a girl has quite a different experience from him because of her gender. I won’t go into too much detail because being a female gamer myself I could probably write an essay on it but this book will hopefully make young boys think about the way they and others treat their female friends and classmates etc. I think it’s possibly a much harder book for young girls to read because of the way Jaden, his friends and others treat Cali, they begin to ask themselves important questions about their actions later on but even as an (almost) thirty year old woman I was pretty angry about some of the things they said and inferred. As an older woman who has read a lot of books now I understand that these moments like Jaden being upset about his friends knowing he was beaten by a girl or writing off creepy, hurtful messages from people online as just your average “trash talk” are meant to be examples we can learn from but I would worry they could be a little hurtful towards someone much younger. That being said it is refreshing to find older characters in this who point out where Jaden and others are being hurtful and help them to learn to be better people and better friends, I believe this book could help young boys to recognise hurtful behaviour in themselves and those around them and combat it. For young girls I feel that it shows they’re not alone when these bad things happen to them and that they shouldn’t just have to write these behaviours off as nothing. This is something I feel very strongly about and the main reason I think this book spoke to me. I would however have liked to have seen some of the story more from Cali’s point of view, maybe in book three?
Despite some of the more serious lessons to be gleaned from Anyones Game it still carries the same light and fun energy the first book did but with just a little more conflict and food for thought but written in such a way that it doesn’t drag the overall story down or make it too heavy. A great sequel and I can’t wait for the next book!