Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

I loved Deadly Pink. This one by the same author was just so-so.

Giannine is trapped in a virtual reality video game when protestors from the group Citizens to Protect our Children (CPOC) vandalize the gaming center where she is playing. Because of the damage the protestors caused, the only way for Giannine to get out of her game is to survive and win it by becoming the next king of the game’s fantasy world. Unfortunately, true to the game’s rules, every time Giannine makes a mistake and “dies” in the game, she goes back to the beginning to start all over. And soon if she doesn’t finish the game, her brain is at risk of fatal overload, or Real Death.

I never felt as if I knew who Giannine was outside of her game world, so I was never really invested in her success. In Deadly Pink, a book with a similar plot, I really identified with the two main characters and wanted them to be O.K. because they had issues and personalities that made me care. In Heir Apparent there are hints at issues and themes of family conflict and father-neediness, but those themes are never developed. Giannine remains a funny, witty character, but rather flat with little or no growth or change in her life and personality by the end of the story.

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