This review and others are on Whitley ReadsThis book was provided free by the publisher in exchange for an honest reviewI’m just going to get something out upfront. This book is pretty good at doing emotional responses. When it comes to family drama. There were a few points where I would get choked up even though I wasn’t agreeing with what was going on. And awkward teenage dating? Spot-on accurate.Okay, we clear on that? The book did some stuff well? Got that out of the way? Good.Everything else was shit.A lot of what I disliked about this book was based on my politics, and if you disagree with me on those points, that’s fine. A lot people are going to, and more power to you. As long as you put a bit more thought into your position than this book did. This book is a hot mess of buzz-word issues that picked the easy answer, stopped thinking after that, and declared the other side to be evil. Then, apparently, it realized the other side wasn’t evil enough so it tacked on some more shit to make the main characters look better. Yeah, it was one of those books where the characters know someone is evil and then all the evidence comes out. But let’s tackle all of this in order. First up. The pacing was horrible. The first half of the book was nothing but personal drama. Someone came and set up a supercomputer in Tyler’s bedroom, called it a simulator that he’s supposed to beta-test, and then he was barely on it until about the 60% mark. He didn’t quite ignore the thing, but the book sure as hell didn’t care. It was more interested in setting up romance.And fuck that was a creepy romance. I mean, after it got going it was cute enough, but the set up? Tyler straight-up stalked the shit out of Ani for weeks. She gave him a very clear ‘no,’ but he decided that she was just so pretty and awesome that he had to have her, so he started emailing her on a daily basis. For WEEKS, even though she wasn’t giving him any replies. And the way he kept going on and on about her skin was just weird. It was like looking at the mind of demented serial killer. I thought he was going to try and peel her and wear her. Tyler’s ADHD pissed me off to no end. This was yet another book that tried to push the whole “you don’t need you meds, just stop taking them, having ADHD is awesome” message. Sure, Tyler’s brain was able to handle the complexities of flying, but that’s not good enough. An ADHD brain that can read a dozen dials on a monitor is the same kind of brain that will glance over a flight plan, think it knows everything, and then barrel on. It’s the kind of brain that doesn’t do double-checks, gets distracted during safety briefings, and easily misses errors. Oh, yeah, and if you don’t fucking die from that, good luck reading through any employment contract or mortgage paperwork. ADHD isn’t something to fuck around with, alright? It’s not awesome. It’s not a superpower. It’s not going to make your life better. It’s not “the next stage of evolution” as this book puts it. And for the love of god, stop telling impressionable teenagers that the councilors and psychiatrists are trying to hurt them. Because that’s exactly what this book ends up saying. Tyler doesn’t have any consequences from his ADHD. He’s all distracted a lot, but nothing bad happens while he’s distracted. About the only actual impact his ADHD has on the book is that most of his narration is done in run-ons and sentence fragments.Which, by the way? Terrible way to display that. Bad grammar is not a side-effect of ADHD.And then there’s all the lines where Tyler thinks Ani is just so fucking special because apparently NO OTHER GIRL ON THE PLANET actually likes video games. Nope, just her. Every other girl is a faker trying to impress her boyfriend. NO OTHER FEMALE is capable of liking games just for the sake of liking them.God, just fuck this book so hard.And all of that is even before you get to the political stuff. Do you know what the message of this book is? War is bad. That’s it. No, wait, that’s not it. War is bad, but it’s okay for other people to do it, just so long as your own hands stay clean. That’s the only concern the kids have. That they, personally, don’t have to kill anyone. At the end of the day, when all their work is being spent on other people flying drones and killing people? Oh, yeah, that’s cool. That’s just fine and dandy, apparently.The worst part is that there’s so much that could have been done here. I mean, Ani doesn’t have any room to be whining. She knew she was building government equipment. The fact that it went online a little early should not matter, because she knew it was going to be used on real drones eventually. I have no idea why she acted all shocked. But Tyler has some legit stuff to complain about. They tricked him into killing people. Even if you take a “few broken eggs to make an omelet” approach to war, I think we can all agree, you don’t trick people into killing. You give that shit to the people who know what they signed up for and actually signed up for it. But Tyler has no fucks to give over that, he’s just upset that people are dying.Well, dumbshit, that does tend to happen in a war.Actually, it’s kind of amazing how many actual issues this book brushes against and then ignores. There’s all sorts of stuff it could have discussed. But as soon as it found a real issue, it backed off again and said “ooooo, but they’re killing people and that’s bad!” Dafuq did you think was going on? You’re working for a military contracted; how did you not know that they kill people and then get paid for it?And their ultimate answer was “don’t kill people.” Well, no, it was “you, Mr. Bad Guy, don’t kill people. The real military can keep doing that, though. That’s cool.” I just don’t even know. I just…ugh, what? Look, I’m all for not killing people. Not killing people is great. But you can’t just say “stop” and then pat yourself on the back. It’s more complicated than that.And they come up against the idea of collateral damage and then back up from that, too. Their ultimate answer? “Don’t kill three innocent people, even though doing so could save thousands more.” Which, while I don’t agree with it, a lot of people do and it’s a valid position to take. But I swear, there’s a scene later on where Tyler thinks about those other thousand innocent people and he just sticks his fingers in his ears and sings “lalalalalalala.” This book does not have the metaphorical balls to tackle the issues it wants to be about. It dances around shit and gives easy answers and then ignores any complications.And then they tried and pull the whole scandal angle, saying that what the company was doing was just soooo evil and they were going to take their intel to a reporter. What was the scandal? The locals they were providing protection for were also running drugs, and Tyler was all “OH NO, NOT DRUGS, THAT’S THE WORST THING EVER.” JFC, book, were you written in the 90s? If you take that shit to a news station, not only will they laugh you out the building for being behind the times, they’ll refuse to take your STOLEN TOP SECRET INFORMATION all for the sake of something that’s pretty much sanctioned. And I mean really, there’s nothing in this book that hasn’t been done legally already, except the tricking-people-into-fighting thing. I really don’t think that would warrant mid-day assassinations, especially since it’s probably buried in the fine print of all that paperwork you didn’t bother to read, Tyler.…in fact, yeah, I think this book was written in the 90s. All the issues are a few decades old, and the fact that it’s all about drones didn’t really factor in. Drones were set dressing. They didn’t work into the morality questions.One last parting shot: the whole premise doesn’t make sense. Why would you give real missions to someone who thinks it’s a game? Do you know what bored gamers do when they think everything isn’t real? They take pot-shots at the NPCs. So, yeah, give a bunch of teenage boys a “game” that’s boring as shit and expect that to work out. Brilliant.