On a LARP / Zero Sum Game / Say Her Name – Stefani Deoul

You know how sometimes a book comes out and it’s part of a series so instead of reading a single new book you kinda go back in time and read the previous ones too and you’re suddenly discovering a whole new world? That’s what happened to me here and it’s more than a little exhilarating.

The first book in the Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventure Series is On a LARP. Sid is a seventeen-year-old extraordinarily smart high school student. She’s also a geek, a coder, and a lesbian. On a school visit to the local police station, she makes an especially clever remark, which leads to the police asking for her help in trying to understand a murder case. Sid and her also-brilliant friends – original best friend / star quarterback / future Supreme Court judge Jimmy, best friend / future Broadway star Imani, larger than life sex goddess Ari, not-such-a-loser Vikram – dive eagerly into the dark web looking for (and finding) clues and answers, with Sid at the same time crushing hard on one of the detectives.

In the second instalment, Zero Sum Game, Sid and her friends (including newcomer non-binary Ze) race against time to save a teenage gamer on the other side of the world. This one lost me a little in all the MMPRPG stuff, but it was very exciting nevertheless.

My favourite is probably the third and last (at least for now) book, Say Her Name. In this episode, Sid gets a girlfriend (it’s YA so apart from a few heated kisses, it’s fade to black), which causes her to reflect on who she is, who she wants to be, what she wants. But that’s only part of the story, since Sid and her gang (with another new friend, Joe, who is deaf) stumble onto a mass grave in Central Park. Being who they are, they have to investigate and find out who these people were, give them back their names, their stories, their dignity. This third book is probably the most powerful of the three, though none would be considered light reading (which doesn’t mean they’re not fun, far from it).

I’ve mentioned being exhilarated. Reading these three books back to back (it couldn’t be helped, they were all there, I couldn’t stop) was also a tad exhausting as they’re told in first person present tense, as Sid’s flowing thoughts and a brainiac teenager’s inner monologue cannot not be exhausting and overwhelming. It’s very fast-paced and in my head it read at Lorelai Gilmore speed.

I loved everything about these books. My only regret is that Sid’s mother is French but sometimes the French parts don’t sound French at all. Most of them do and then suddenly there’s a very strange turn of phrase pulling me out of my reading. I’ve offered before and I’ll say it again: lesfic authors, if you read this, know that I’ll be happy to help with anything French, whether it’s words, grammar, food, street names… Anything I can help with, just ask. I don’t need anything in return (a copy of the book if you can spare one would be nice but not required), I just want the books I love to be the best they can be.

Anyway, this very minor irritation is not enough to bring my rating down, this series is too good and consistent to warrant less than a 5 stars rating. As I wrote above, I loved everything. The characters of course, starting with Sid, whose wit, smartass attitude, conscience, sensitivity went straight to my heart. They’re all, even the smaller ones, multidimensional. I love the simplicity with which Deoul introduces diverse characters, how each one’s identity is fundamental but not necessarily an issue. The plots are complex and fascinating, the writing is fun and exciting and fast-paced and did I mention exciting? Oh, and aren’t the covers gorgeous? Yeah.

On a side note, at one point in Say Her Name, Sid says “I have hands that don’t like to follow directions. My brain says do this and my hands do that”. So of course it reminded me of dyspraxia, because a lot of the time that’s what dyspraxia feels like to me (it’s not the only thing but a major one). So, even if it might not have been planned, for me it’s yet another reason to love this series.


On a LARP @ Bywater Books
Zero Sum Game @ Bywater Books
Say Her Name @ Bywater Books

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