cover image New World

New World

Gillian Cross. Holiday House, $15.95 (171pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1166-5

Miriam, a British teen, has been chosen, seemingly at random, to participate in the secret testing of New World, a cutting-edge virtual-reality game. The game exerts an addictive fascination, but Miriam grows convinced that the program is somehow tapping into her greatest (and, she believes, secret) fear. As the hidden agenda of the game programmers is gradually revealed, Miriam must strengthen bonds with family and friends in order to prevent the programmers from unleashing their potentially dangerous new product. Though this ambitious story makes some intriguing points about an array of worthwhile topics (among them trust, compassion, the nature of illusion and the need to shape one's own destiny), these themes never really come together in the sort of revelatory collision of metaphor and narrative that characterizes Cross's best works (Chartbreaker). On the other hand, the pace never slackens, the characters are subtly developed and suspense is delivered in wholesale quantities. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)