Foyt, Victoria. The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond. Harper Teen, 2007. ISBN 978-0060825638 320 pp.
Lexie is a self-proclaimed girl gearhead, here defined not as a car nut or gadget geek, but a computer addict who has forsaken a real life for the Internet. When her mother, a psychologist, is killed in a car accident, Lexie suspects foul play, and is convinced her Mac may have answers. Her dad is too taken with a new girlfriend to pay much attention to Lexie’s crackpot murder theories, so she turns to the ‘net — and some new friends — for assistance.
To reflect Lexie’s personality and disillusionment with people, the author used a mixed metaphor of the protagonist alternately as an intergalactic anthropologist alien, or a highly evolved computer. This is effective in portraying Lexie’s attempts to be an efficient and stoic observer, but left me wondering, well, which does she feel she is? Lexie is stereotypically solitary for a gamer; there is a fair bit of evidence that those who immerse themselves in virtual life are in fact very social through affinity groups online.
The writing is well-paced and energetic, but the plot is predictable. The author drops enough hints for the reader to figure out the murdered before the heroine, the popular girl ends up as an ally, and the second the cute surfer boy next door shows up and the narrator says surfer and gearheads are incompatible, you know who her mystery friend webrider is… and that he is interested in her more than platonically.
While the story is unique, and the mix of technology and spirituality dynamic and original, there are so many technical mistakes it is nearly impossible to suspend one’s disbelief at the ghosts in the machine concept. Certainly, there is a lag between manuscript and publication, but the book appears very dates because of the following: Lexie primarily uses email to communicate, not IM; she connects via modem, not cable (a geek girl would be pushing for cable access!), but is able to quickly download a song sent via email, on dialup; she calls games CD-ROMS; she is delighted with a Game Boy (not the newest Nintendo portable), which she calls an e-toy (they are not Internet enabled); she confuses links with search strings and metatags. Finally, she installs new RAM with the computer on–RAM must be installed with the machine off and unplugged, and you have to ground yourself to avoid any static discharge that could damage the RAM. All of these errors were so distracting and frustrating it was nearly impossible to enjoy the farfetchedness of the story.