cover image Play the Game

Play the Game

Charlene Allen. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-321279-4

Months after Black Brooklyn teenager Ed Hennessey is killed, Philip Singer—the white man who shot him and was not prosecuted—is found dead outside the same restaurant where the event occurred. The incident sparks a new wave of trauma and anger within the community, especially for Ed’s friends, Jack and VZ, both 17, who are still reeling from his death. When the police target Jack as the most likely suspect in Singer’s murder, he goes on the run, leaving VZ and his best friend, Chela, to clear Jack’s name. Meanwhile, VZ, with the aid of his crush and skilled coder Diamond, attempts to finish debugging the puzzle adventure game Ed was working on, planning to submit it to a gaming contest to honor his memory. As the game’s challenges and riddles begin inexplicably tying into VZ’s real-life investigation, he’s forced to reckon with his previously unexplored feelings of grief while desperately seeking closure and justice. Informed by present-day events surrounding structural racism and oppression, and the author’s experience as a restorative justice advocate, Allen compassionately examines themes of community and criminal justice reform in this affecting, noirish debut. Ages 13–up. Agent: Elizabeth Bewley, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)