cover image Virtually Perfect

Virtually Perfect

Dan Gutman. Hyperion Books, $13.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0394-1

Gutman (The Kid Who Ran for President) taps out a smoothly diverting ""What if?"" tale centered on a seventh-grader who is new to town and feeling friendless. After Yip's father, a special-effects expert in the movie business, comes home with new computer software that can create a ""virtual actor"" (aka ""vactor""), Yip decides to experiment. But the virtual pal he devises, Victor, insists on stepping out of the computer screen and into the real world. The next day, that ""bunch of electrons"" shows up at Yip's school and makes friends fast, thanks to his carefully calculated good looks (Yip's boy-smitten older sister had a hand in composing his physical features), his rapid-fire repertoire of one-liners (The Best of Henny Youngman is one of the books Yip has downloaded into his vactor's database) and his superhuman athletic prowess. But Yip's growing jealousy of Victor and Yip's failure to program in a conscience virtually guarantee big trouble. Gutman builds the funniest moments around Yip's likable grandfather, a retired special-effects man, who finally pulls the plug on Victor. Its breezy dialogue and quick pace give this caper the scent of a smartly written sitcom; readers will supply the laugh track. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)