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4 Stars: Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa ARC

Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa was not exactly what I expected, but it still turned out to be an enthralling read! For some reason I had gotten it into my head that this one would fit in the sci-fi category, which is definitely doesn’t (in case anyone else had gotten that impression, haha). It fits well into the contemporary/thriller genres which I normally don’t consider “my thing” at all. However, there is a solid gamer culture element that pulled me in at the beginning, and from there the excitement and mystery took firm hold. As a recovering gamer myself, I think some of my gamer readers might enjoy that part ;-).

Note: I received Playing Tyler through Netgalley for an honest review. I read an ARC and so some things might change in the final version.

4 Stars: Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa ARC

Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa
Published by Strange Chemistry on July 2nd, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, YA
Page Length: 304 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
Amazon - Book Depository - Goodreads
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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.

4 Stars


  • I don’t have ADHD and haven’t run this by anyone I know who does, but the stream of consciousness of the main character, Tyler, seemed to be a good representation of a character with ADHD. Tyler also blames his racing thoughts on his unmedicated ADHD, so it was obvious that was the conclusion I was supposed to draw. I’m interested in others thoughts on this!
  • The gamer culture was accurate and fun to read about. I had to resist pulling out my old game of choice when reading Playing Tyler. I especially liked that the social element of gaming was shown, with Tyler talking to his gaming buddies while he is playing.
  • There are a couple of hard issues in Playing Tyler, including drug addiction and war. I thought that they were handled well, in that I could connect to those issues and understand how difficult they are for everyone involved, but it wasn’t too painful to read.
  • After the 50% mark was definitely where Playing Tyler picked up and became much more thriller. I was so excited to see what happened and so moved by the choices made. Stick with it!


  •  Tyler makes some stalker decisions when he becomes interested in a girl. Emailing a girl multiple times a day when she has expressed zero interest in you is not okay at all. Attending school events because you think she will be there after said email barrage is also not okay. I would have liked Tyler a lot more in the beginning if I wasn’t so horrified by this.
  • The stream of consciousness style of first person narration was a little annoying at first. Tyler’s thoughts are pretty darn scattered. However, I did get used to it!
  • With hard issues comes trigger warnings. The very real problems and pain that come from a family member with drug addiction are described. In addition there are several people discussed that have problems of their own such as PTSD.
  • Ani is the romantic interest and while she narrates some of the chapters, I ended the book feeling like I didn’t know her at all. Looking back I realized she was just a mirror for Tyler, which was disappointing.


If a book about gamers, the military, tough issues, and secrets sounds intriguing to you, I recommend you pick up Playing Tyler. While I started reading the book with a mistaken impression, I was quickly drawn in to Tyler’s world and made to appreciate my very boring childhood by comparison. I’m very thrilled to say this is the first Strange Chemistry book I’ve read where the plot made sense to me :D.

4 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – Anya


 Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa

© 2013, Anya. All rights reserved.


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