cover image Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena

Team Chu and the Battle of Blackwood Arena

Julie C. Dao. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-38875-1

Vietnamese American siblings Clip, 12, and Sadie Chu, 11, have always been competitive with each other. Avid laser tag players, they’re thrilled when the state-of-the-art Blackwood Gaming Arena opens near them. It offers virtual reality–enhanced scenarios with a leaderboard that promises great prizes, such as a month of free games—and it ramps up the siblings’ rivalry. While in the game, the two encounter white-cued Tom, a boy who’s trapped within the arena’s ever-evolving code. After Clip becomes trapped as well, Sadie and their friends must work together to successfully play through all six courses and win their way out. Through the siblings’ alternating perspectives and respective internal struggles, such as Clip’s jealousy of Sadie’s laser tag prowess and Sadie’s frustrations with heteronormative gender roles at home, Dao (Song of the Crimson Flower) delves into the Chu’s intergenerational dynamics, pressures, and expectations. The spirited narrative explores how Clip and Sadie relate to each other and their passions via virtual reality escapades, clever puzzles, and friendly sibling rivalry. A rousing adventure and heartwarming series opener. Ages 8–12. Agent: Tamar Rydzinski, Context Literary Agency. (July)