(Alternative title: You all know that this is way overdue. Oh well, black sheep mode on.)
Dare I say it, I love Warcross. Sure, I had some issues with the fast-paced romance. But it had the technology that left me in awe. It was so cool to imagine a young adult novel that explores a topic close to my area of “expertise”. I loved it so much that I was close to writing to Marie Lu to pitch it as an anime. Wildcard easily became one of my most anticipated sequels for 2018. Heck, I even drew fanart despite me not liking the book.
Oops, I said too much early on. Oh well, since it’s out there. Wildcard was not for me.
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Date Published: 18th of September 2018
Series: Warcross #2
Publisher:G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.
Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
I tried to lower my expectations for the sequel. I know that nothing good comes out from expecting too much. But even after everything I did to mentally prepare myself for it, I was ultimately let down. At first, I thought “There must be something wrong with me. Why am I not liking this?” I had to keep reminding myself that I love Warcross. That’s the reason why I must love this book. But it was not working. It was really tremendously frustrating to not be liking what I was reading. So I gave up and skimmed its majority. Once I finished it, I was more than thankful that it was finally over and I can finally move on to another book.
I was originally supposed to be reviewing Wildcard in participation of a tour, but with my low rating, I decided to opt out and post an excerpt instead. Hence, I received an unsolicited advanced reader’s copy of this book. Nonetheless, this did not affect my opinions about the book in any way.
So this is what it feels like to be the black sheep, huh? In all seriousness, I wanted to love Wildcard. I anticipated the technical things that I loved while reading Warcross: the undeniably great page-turning writing style, the delightful twist and turns, Emika Chen being an incredible badass, and me slightly rooting for Zero. But upon reading Wildcard, those elements sort off went off the table.
Let me start with the page-turning writing style: this time around, it’s not. I found myself struggling with the first 10 chapters, and as I previously mentioned, I skimmed a majority of the chapters. In a way it was like reading word vomit. While the span of days in Wildcard were shorter, it felt like prolonged agony. Sure, it got a bit better by the second half, but by then I was just not having it anymore. There was this feeling that there was a lot of unnecessary things being said, and it wasn’t really needed for the time frame. How do I put this lightly? Yes, the writing had essence but the pacing was evidently off.
Then we have the delightful twists and turns. It was not, and I honestly couldn’t care less. “Oh by the way he’s *tooooooooooooooot*”. The general reaction I had was, “Oh okay. What a stretch, by the way.” I wasn’t having it. I mean yes, it tackles the danger of a technology overlord that we might end up encountering in the future, but there is always this mentality in me that kept on screaming, “Humans are more powerful than any machine.” This in turn kind off made Wildcard feel like there is much info-dumping. There are other books in YA that have dealt with artificial intelligence, but the way it was introduced in Wildcard felt like a bit of a stretch.
Now we go to Emika: I have so much respect for my girl. But I did not like how she was basically being played with in this book. If Hideo and Zero wanted to play “Pass the Message”, they could have done it themselves to be honest. She honestly deserves better! What’s worse is that Emika’s hacking prowess was suddenly non-existent for huge chunks of the book? What happened to all of the progress in Warcross? More so, the characters in this novel felt flat. Asides from feeling no engagement with this book, I wasn’t fully invested with its characters. Like they were there to fill a void. Sometimes their voices become so similar that I have to backtrack a little bit to see who was talking.
(Also, I am still not on board (and will never be) with the romance between Hideo and Emika. It still felt forced and undeniably insta-lovey for me to take it seriously. Emika can live her badass life without him in the mix, to be honest.)
On a lighter note, what made me give it at least a 2.5 star equivalent is related to how the book expanded Zero’s personality. We get more depth about what actually happened to him and how he ended up in that sort of situation. That being said, I still have issues with all the things surrounding data and physical shells. Things that surrounded the very core of his existence left me with tons of unanswered questions that had my eyes rolling. I want to keep my review spoiler-free, so I will leave it at that.
Wildcard, like its predecessor, is unpredictable and brimming with the wonders of where technology can go. However, with the missing elements such as the games and the hunt, and a slightly confusing addition of much more complex aspects of science fiction, it was ultimately not for me. With an underwhelming ending that felt a little bit too convenient, it left me with feeling “Yeah, let’s move on to the next book so we can forget this one already.”
(Know more about my rating system here.)
I mean, sure there are takeaways and it gave a morally important question as a base of its premise. It really sounded like a solid idea. But there are so many factors that I cannot deal with. *sigh* But I am not giving up on Marie Lu because I know I still have a lot to catch up on her books. And yes, I still love Warcross. I’ll just try to forget that there’s a sequel. That’s my silver lining.
So… Wildcard huh?