Playing Tyler – T.L. Costa
When is a game not a game?
Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.
Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.
Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.
That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.
“Playing Tyler”, T.L. Costa’s debut Young Adult novel, takes us on an exhilarating journey through the lives of Tyler and Ani, two youngster caught in a web of political secrets and ethical issues they can’t seem to find a way out of.
It all starts out as a dream come true for Tyler. He gets to test a video game and if he gets a high enough score, he can enter a flight program. Flying has always been Tyler’s dream and now that his goal is in reach, and by playing a mere video game (the one thing he’s really good at), live seems to have taken a turn for the good for Tyler. Especially when Ani, the game’s designer, shows up and she’s everything he’s ever dreamed of in a girl.
But not all is as it seems.
The story itself was intriguing and fun to read. I really liked the struggle the characters had to go through, the many ethical questions that got attention in this book and the unconditional love for family that was a big part of this story.
The two main characters are an interesting choice in many ways. They have certain things in common, like a dad fighting in the army, but they are also very different in a lot of ways.
Ani and Tyler both lost their father to the war, but both in different ways and they both reacted and coped with it differently. Ani has seen how her father was changed when he returned from the war. He couldn’t cope and eventually snapped and got thrown into prison. Because of this Ani loathes the war and anything that has a connection to it.
Tyler lost his father in a helicopter accident and wants nothing more than to follow in his footsteps and be a war pilot. He thinks of his father as a hero and wants to keep his memory by continuing what his father started.
This is the big contrast between the two main characters, one wants nothing to do with the war while the other wants nothing more than to be a part of it.
Tyler is the sweetest kid, he cares about his family a lot and he cares about Ani. He’s also got ADHD, and the author did a great job portraying that in his POV chapters. His thoughts are kinda all over the place and he shifts between them quite rapidly. This made for a very special, but very interesting read. Tyler’s jumbled thoughts on paper made it easier to relate to him and to see the world through his eyes. For example, when he panics, the author left all punctuation out and there was just one long, rambling sentence. Perfect to get the panic and fear across to the reader.
Ani’s chapters were of the usual kind, her thoughts more ordered. It was great to see how she thought about everything going on and how she was dealing with it. Especially when her opinion seemed to clash with Tyler’s.
As for the ending, the last part of the book seemed to rush by. I didn’t mind that much, but in contrast with the rest of the book, which had a rather slow pace, it felt a bit weird. It was good ending though, fitting for the book and emotion and action packed.
All in all, it was a good read, but not a great one. Although the whole idea of the story was good, it doesn’t seem all that unlikely to me. I could see something like that happening right now or in the near future. “Playing Tyler” is a fast read, but it wasn’t spectacular.