Wildcard by Marie Lu

cover image

Penguin Books, 2018. ISBN 9780241342435
(Age: Teens) Recommended. Sci-fi. Fantasy. Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, the one person she thought was on her side - Hideo Tanaka.
His plan: to wipe out all crime on earth by ending the free will of its citizens.
Emika is determined to put a stop to him, but she soon finds a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on her head, and her sole chance for survival lies with the ruthless Zero.
But his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
Wildcard takes place immediately after the events of Warcross, so it is crucial to read Warcross first to become familiar with the world Emika inhabits and her predicament as she discovered Hideo's betrayal. Lu uses the futuristic setting to skilfully criticize love in all its forms, familial, romantic, and friendship, revealing the lengths people go to for the people they love through the actions of Hideo, Emika, and various other characters. Not only does Lu analyse love, she also explores ethical issues such as mankind's right to free will and the consequences of removing this ability, as well as 'the greater good'. She highlights the way society perceives people as definitively good or bad and suggests that 'evil' people tend to operate in morally grey areas, while a single evil or good act does not define a person. While the supporting characters' personalities and motives were better expounded upon in Wildcard, there was a disconnect from Emika, the main character. Emika's actions did not drive the plot; rather, her role was a reactionary one as secrets were revealed and events happened around her despite her best efforts to prevent them, which slowed the overall pacing of the story, despite the whirlwind action sequences. However, the complexity of the characters and the layers of deceit Emika faced created an engrossing story which allowed the exploration of the aforementioned themes. Lu's writing style and descriptions shine in writing the connections between people and this book truly showcases her abilities.
Wildcard is a well-written novel critiquing the ethical issues present and emerging in society, providing great food for thought as well as a good read.
Stephanie Lam (Student)