Just City – Editorial Review

 

Title: Just City

Author: Olga Tymofiyeva

Genre: Young Adult

 

If you could create a truly just society, what would it look like? In Just City you can find out. When Nathan’s grandmother invites him and his friends to test a video game she created for research purposes, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—literally. With a $10,000 prize on the line, Nathan is willing to give his all to get the highest score in the game and win the prize money to fund his idea for a startup.

The video game, named “Just City” is a game-of-life style VR simulation. In “Just City,” there are no “right” or “wrong” answers, only decisions that you need to make based on your beliefs and circumstances. Readers will find the game itself to be fascinating and engaging. Detailed descriptions of the game’s functionality include a Meta-like universe where players create their own avatar and move through the game as if it were real life. But the true star of the book isn’t its shiny tech, it is its characters. Extensive character development and complex character relationships are at the heart of this stimulating plot.

The wide range of challenges Nathan is faced with in the game are equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking, and readers will be left questioning what they would do if they were in Nathan’s shoes. Nathan’s struggles will speak to a young adult audience as he navigates finding his purpose and place in the world, making it natural for readers to empathize and emotionally connect with him.

Nathan and his friends’ decisions in the game turn from fun to daunting as they start to reveal everyone’s true colors, for good and for bad, and the mood of the book darkens considerably. “Life” in the game bleeds into real life and Nathan’s relationships in the real world crumble, and it even causes him to question his own beliefs and identity. After the game, Nathan becomes susceptible and vulnerable to other people’s influence, and he can’t seem to shake that something in his life needs to change.

Nathan only plays the game for a portion of the book, and it causes a huge ripple effect on the rest of his life, but the “screen time” it ultimately gets left us wishing for a deeper exploration of the game. In addition, we see how deeply Nathan is affected, but we don’t get to see or hear about all the other characters’ experiences. Introducing us to other players in the game could’ve added an extra layer of depth to the meaning and impact it has.

There are multiple different types of character relationships and dynamics in the book, and these relationships intensify as Nathan explores his identity. As Nathan and his friends are tested in the game and out in the world, they become hyperaware of each other’s clashing beliefs, creating a rift in their relationships. Tension is used masterfully to emphasize the anger, resentment, and guilt between them, and it keeps readers on edge, waiting to see how the degradation of certain relationships will unfold.

In Just City, readers will be left in awe and inspired as they follow a young man’s philosophical journey through an existential crisis. Just City is a fascinating character study that blends the high-tech world with young adult themes to explore personal identity, social hierarchies, and interpersonal relationships. With deeply emotional moments and highly intellectual conversations, Just City is perfect for readers who are ready to engage and question their own privilege, empathy, and belonging.

 

 

This Editorial Review was written by the Book Review Directory staff. To receive a similarly honest, professional review for one of your own books, click here.

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