The Crafter is an exciting middle-grade novel. The first in a series, it follows protagonist Kenny as he moves with his mom and their cat Whiskers to small-town Kansas.
While Kenny tries to adapt to a new place and find friends, he discovers that the video game console already installed in the apartment where he lives with his mother transports him to a strange land that follows video game rules. As Kenny and Whiskers play the game and learn more, they recruit other kids to help them defeat one of the game’s “bosses.”
The novel is filled with action, both in the real and game worlds, from feral dogs to ferocious three-headed dragons. Readers learn the game world’s rules as Kenny explores it, keeping suspense high, and in the game world, Whiskers can talk, providing amusing commentary.
The real world has intriguing quirks, as well, with a school culture rewarding strength over academic knowledge. Kenny’s friends are each distinct enough to be easily distinguished in dialogue. In addition, they all struggle with different burdens. For instance, Gavin is overweight and lives with a controlling grandmother, while Aurora disregards her schoolwork to take care of her house because her mother is sick and her father neglectful. The novel ends on a surprising note, with the promise of more adventures to come.
The stakes in the novel feel low, for while “leveling up” in the game world leads to improvements in the real one, it’s unclear whether dying in the game results in dying in the real world. Also, since no time passes in the real world when players are in the game, they can (and do) spend hours in the game world without neglecting their responsibilities in the real one or suffering any negative consequences.
Still, with The Crafter’s plentiful action and quick, easy style, gamers and non-gamers alike will enjoy the ride.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.