ARC Review: Looking for Group, by Alexis Hall

Advance Review Copy generously provided by the the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb:

cover-alexishall-lookingforgroupSo, yeah, I play Heroes of Legend, y’know, the MMO. I’m not like obsessed or addicted or anything. It’s just a game. Anyway, there was this girl in my guild who I really liked because she was funny and nerdy and a great healer. Of course, my mates thought it was hilarious I was into someone I’d met online. And they thought it was even more hilarious when she turned out to be a boy IRL. But the joke’s on them because I still really like him.

And now that we’re together, it’s going pretty well. Except sometimes I think Kit—that’s his name, sorry I didn’t mention that—spends way too much time in HoL. I know he has friends in the guild, but he has me now, and my friends, and everyone knows people you meet online aren’t real. I mean. Not Kit. Kit’s real. Obviously.

Oh, I’m Drew, by the way. This is sort of my story. About how I messed up some stuff and figured out some stuff. And fell in love and stuff.


Stats:

Published:
Publisher:
Genre:
Length:
POV:
Series:
Dates read:
Edition read:
August 29, 2016
Riptide Publishing
Contemporary, M/M, LGBT+
294 e-book pages
3rd person
Stand-Alone
August 4-6, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Review:

Full Disclosure: I’m not a gamer, years of playing Super Mario Brothers and its many incarnations over various systems notwithstanding. The little I know of stuff out there nowadays blows my mind, and I’m relatively certain I’d become wildly addicted if I allowed myself to partake. I’d best stick to books. Though, in certain circles, I’m still the reigning champion of Mario Kart. Just sayin’.

I requested an advance copy, a bit emphatically because ALEXIS HALL. ‘Nuff said.

Going in, I knew that I was not likely the target audience…but oftentimes I’m not the target anyway, so that wasn’t gonna stop me. I’m a bit of a nerdy geek in other things, so felt I’d find something with which to relate. And I did.

The first chapter dives head first into gamer world and the fantastical pixelated realm of Heroes of Legend, an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game — I had to look that up). Personally, I could have used a gentler hand to lead me into this world of orks, trolls, dragons, and tanks and their quests for loot and whatnots. Instead, I spent a lot of time scratching my head in bewilderment of the game-speak and chatter amongst the guild in bracketed text-speak doing my level best to understand All The Things.

There’s lots of that throughout, but at some point, after the first chapter I was okay with it. I can’t say I understood it all, but I was okay with it. I’d caught on, as best I could, not having any other real frame of reference and a sorely lacking imagination in this particular arena.

The overall storyline was what I loved best. Drew and Kit. Meeting online in gamer world, shrouded in character avatars unlike themselves, somehow they clicked from the start. I felt that, instantly.

This is where I could relate a little bit, the meeting online thing. It’s new, but it’s not new new (ahem, AOL chatrooms anyone?). More and more it’s the way things are, most especially for the Millennials and Gen Z…but a lot of us Gen X-ers too. And, this story was a brilliant deconstruction/examination of meeting someone first online versus meeting in real life. How expectations are shifted more toward what should be important. How first impressions are on an entirely different plane than looks or dress. Where personality and words are the first benchmarks.

Oddly enough, on the HoL playing field, Kit’s avatar is feminine. And Drew, whose never really thought about his sexuality, is drawn to her…him…a him whose avatar is a her. They hang out on pixelated cliffs in their spare time, talk, form a little bit of a friendly bond that grows. Maybe Drew is a little shocked to learn Kit is a man, more so because it’s forcing him to think about himself and an attraction that’s not going away…all because of the words they’ve shared. The words, man. It’s all about the words.

They meet in real life, and the sparks are still there in an undeniable way. So they move on into a slow-burn, very sweet and introspective romance. Most importantly, this story examines acceptance and respect of the way a person navigates the world, finds comfort, safety, and lasting friendships — real and on-line.

This book is quite unlike any Alexis Hall I’ve ever read. I’ll admit missing the style of prose I’ve come to expect, though I totally get this story demanded a different sort of voice. It’s clearly an homage to an entire culture of online gaming and relating. Young adults encountering new viewpoints and expectations, that thing that happens in college when so many new concepts are examined in an effort to figure yourself out. But he still had me with the characters and the arcs and the undeniable connection forged over pixels and game nights. For that, this was lovely.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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