by Katie Moran
Warcross by Marie Lu: A Review
Marie Lu, author of the well-loved Legends and Young Elites series, has done it again. Her latest novel, Warcross, is an instant hit. Warcross leaves readers stunned with its cliffhanger ending and unbelievable plot twists but between its pages there is so much more at work. Set in a futuristic New York and Tokyo, Warcross is a virtual reality layered right on top of the entire world, invented by the slightly reclusive Hideo Tanaka, a young tech billionaire. Emika Chen, our rainbow-haired protagonist, is a freelance bounty hunter in New York City barely making ends meet until she gets caught hacking into the Warcross Game’s Opening Ceremonies and is summoned by Tanaka to Tokyo.
The Warcross Game is woven into the virtual Warcross world and, by extension, is the very basis of daily life. With their neurolink glasses, people can exist in a New York that doesn’t really exist; cleaner, desirable and more exciting. There are those who opt to spend their time consumed by the facade, always wearing their neurolinks to escape their own monotony and unsatisfying reality. This escapist type of reality resonates greatly with our world today. Marie Lu said that Warcross is “a love letter to all [her] favorite things”; she has combined these ‘favorite things’ with our daily realities to create this exciting world that does not seem too distant. This is the digital era after all and every day, the world of VR and technology grows exponentially. Technological communication has trumped in-person exchanges, much like the novel’s use of messaging via neurolinks. In the novel’s VR overlay of Tokyo, we see that people make changes to their virtual avatars, adding pet tigers or different body features. With social media platforms and online forums already allowing people to only portray what they want people to see, a world like the dystopian one in Warcross could be right on the horizon.
In Warcross, Marie Lu has amassed a group of diverse characters to portray the way in which the virtual world of Warcross helps to erase many of society’s constructed boundaries. The cast of characters in Warcross is comprised mainly of the differently-abled, LGBTQ characters, and POC. In today’s world, young and old alike continue to bear witness to the volatile presence of racism and discrimination. Lu’s novel, and its inclusivity, is imperative and refreshing.
The diversity of this novel is represented with more than a racially diverse cast of characters. Asher, one of the Warcross Game’s team captains is a paraplegic and therefore relies on a wheelchair in the ‘real world’. Lu’s incorporation of a character with physical impairments exceeds the boundaries of the majority of YA fiction, particularly of the best-selling kind. Her evocative writing of this character, in a novel where dual realities coincide, functions in a way that allows the reader to understand multiple aspects of the character’s development. The virtual reality of Warcross seems to nullify what inhibits him outside of the game allowing him to express himself in ways that he wouldn’t outside of the game. Asher, outside of the game, is a strategist and a coach. Inside the game, he is an incredible physical competitor. His disability does not stunt his growth in the virtual world, in fact it allows for more of the character to develop; this is part of Lu’s magic.
Marie Lu continues to dazzle us with the depth of diversity she’s offered in including characters of different sexual orientations. This representation of the LGBTQ+ community is interwoven naturally into the novel’s story and reminds readers once more that these fences we erect around our identities, to keep ourselves in and keep others out, lead us away from a greater understanding of the world. Finally, Marie Lu has given us a tech geek as our main protagonist, Emika. She is a fierce representation of the young girls currently re-shaping the STEM industry by demanding a place for women in all aspects of the field. Emika would probably scoff at us if she could read this, but this character is a great role model for the girl who wants to build a robot in her free time or dreams of being an astronaut when she grows up. Lu has created a fun, witty character in Emika Chen that illustrates the advantages of a woman interested in the STEM fields.
Not only has Marie Lu written another fast paced, heart stopping, tremendously satisfying adventure, she’s also addressed many issues that continue to plague our contemporary world. In times of trouble, when so many groups of people are still being denied the same respect and quality of life that others take for granted, authors ease that pressure through the worlds that they build for us and the power of their voices, reminding readers that nothing is more powerful than equality and inclusivity. Marie Lu’s Warcross delivers an exciting, colorful, and fascinating look at a world without limitations and we cannot wait to see where she, and Emika Chen, take us next.