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Readers Advisory: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

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Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 006212241X, March 2014

Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it. A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life. Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality. Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Despite its strong concept, Elusion suffers from two-dimensional characters and a lack of innovation.

The concept of virtual reality isn’t a new one, as I’ve been hearing it discussed all my life and am sure the discussion goes back much farther than that. The idea of addiction to virtual reality isn’t new either, but as we (supposedly) move closer to the possibility of realizing this technology, it becomes more and more relevant. While Gabel and Klam certainly didn’t invent the concept of a virtual world that hooks its users, their presentation is skillful, most notably in that the addiction comes as a surprise only to the world outside the company selling the technology. Inside testing, the heroine eventually learns, had already shown the technology to have addictive effects, and her father’s company tried to quickly fix the issue before releasing the product but ultimately the dangerous version went to market. It’s a plot point reminiscent of Big Tobacco execs insisting they believed tobacco to be harmless.

Other than the setup, though, Gabel and Klam’s scifi thriller merits average marks. The virtual reality environment is underutilized as a setting, much of the plot hinges on convenience, and the stock romance detracts from the story rather than adding to it. One gets the feeling the authors added the love story because that’s simply what’s done in YA fiction these days. Regan’s nemesis, a vlogger from her school who’s hell-bent on bringing the truth about Elusion to light, made for a much more compelling character than the hero but received little development. Perhaps two girls becoming friends isn’t as sexy as a girl finding a new boyfriend, but it might have created a more memorable story in this case, especially since Regan is going through the loss of her current best friend as she learns he’s not the person she thought he was.

Recommend to: Scifi fans, romance fans

To buy or not to buy: Good choice for medium to large YA collections

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