A wealthy American teenager, a Chinese adolescent intent on freeing himself from a lifetime of slave labor, an economic genius, a daring union organizer and a gifted 15-year-old girl from rural India all meet, go to war with, challenge or champion each other in Cory Doctorow’s brilliant new young adult novel, For the Win. Set in a near future dominated by multiplayer online games—and real-life criminals and corporations who use the games to turn a frighteningly real profit—the novel is as fast-moving, intense and thrilling as any struggle between virtual warriors, monsters, elves or trolls. Relationships shift, friendships end, victims become predators and predators prey. Soon all the widely flung characters are drawn into a global conflict that could change the world.

Fifteen-year-old Mala, known as General Robotwallah to her “army” of friends, uses her talent for navigating magical online battlefields to provide her family with decent clothes, food and an apartment. She works in an electronic sweatshop, where she steals virtual gold—gold her boss sells to wealthy Western players for actual money. Mala and her contemporaries in India, China and the U.S. swiftly find themselves at the center of real-life evils darker and more lethal than anything they faced online.

For the Win addresses urgent global issues shaping Earth today. In an international economy, decisions made in one country cause devastation in individual lives and communities elsewhere. Doctorow skillfully uses gaming as a metaphor for suffering, loss and transformation, an emblem of how desire, pleasure, envy and greed can motivate or destroy human beings. The strongly drawn characters remain individual throughout. Even readers who care little for gaming will care deeply for Mala, Big Sister Nor and the rest. Compelling and believable, For the Win deserves to be savored by teens and adults alike.

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