Game World centres around three children who attempt to survive the world of Xamacia—a video game that they enter to try and save the creator of the game, who has disappeared.
Eli, one of the three, is a smart, sarcastic, and loveable secondary male character who uses a wheelchair. It was so refreshing to read about Eli, particularly since his actions and ideas drive the story forward in several instances. Not only does he help save the protagonist from bullies, but (without giving anyway any spoilers) Eli also goes on a quest that leads to a big moment for a few characters in the story, which changed the dynamic of the whole book for me.
Throughout the book, Eli is seen as a trustworthy, strong fighter, but also as a resourceful friend. In addition to the actions mentioned above, Eli’s skills in terms of hacking and computers regularly aid the protagonist. For example, he even gets picked first to enter a big Xamacia tournament, before the protagonist, who is only picked to enter due to luck! Also, in the game world of Xamacia, he uses his skills on the computer to get his friends out of trouble. Throughout Game World, Eli is resourceful and quick-witted. It was amazing to read about a disabled character who regularly surprises and aids the protagonist with just his skill set and mind. I am so used to reading similar adventure stories with secondary disabled characters who only feature for a few chapters before dying or disappearing, so it was great to be introduced to Eli, who appears almost constantly throughout the book.
His personality was particularly charming. A whizz at computers, while being kind, funny, smart and sarcastic in equal measure, Eli is undoubtedly one of the book’s stand-out characters. (This is saying something as Farley excels at writing rich, engaging characters.) From his very first appearance, Eli’s wit and charm leapt from the page and he very quickly became one of my favourite characters.
Another positive for me was the actual treatment of Eli as a disabled character. As a wheelchair user (his specific disability not being stated in the book), Eli is never isolated or excluded from any of the action or fight scenes. He is always fighting alongside Dylan and Ines. Eli is ferociously independent and his disability is never shown to limit him or his contribution to the story, nor do the characters treat him differently, which was fantastic to read. In short, his disability is not made the focus of his character. It is evident when Eli moves around—the movement of his chair is described, for example, but it is never made anything more than that, unless Eli himself jokes about it, which is handled well and fits the narrative and character. His wheelchair is as much a part of him as his hair or eye colour.
While aspects of Eli’s story were saddening, he didn’t appear to be subjected to any particular negative tropes as a disabled character. At one point, he goes missing and is assumed to have suffered a negative fate, but thankfully is found alive and well a few chapters later. I think this happened because of his nature as a secondary character, and not because he was subjected to the “expendable disabled character” trope. Especially since, after he is found again, he continues to impact the narrative.
As the book was written from another character’s point of view, there was sometimes a lack of exposition or dialogue from Eli, particularly in some of the action-heavy scenes. Eli would often disappear for a few pages and then be found, or come back to relay what had happened to him. However, Eli still has some fantastic character development throughout the book, and I was fine with the fact that he wasn’t a point-of-view character. That said, Eli was such a good character and showed such potential for a story of his own in his own point of view, that I think it would be amazing if he got his own book.
But for now, I’m extremely happy with how the character of Eli was treated in Game World. He was an integral, pivotal, and lovable character—I feel that Game World is worth reading for the character of Eli alone.
In addition, it’s a captivating read with a fast-paced and intriguing plot. You won’t want to put it down. I wholeheartedly recommend it.