Book Reviews

Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker | Book Review


Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker.

My copy: Simon & Schuster, June 14th, 2016. Egalley (review copy), 309 pages.

Source: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Simon & Schuster!



Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab . . .

ten minutes after he met a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon’s first date. Ever.

In rehab, he can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

Prepare to be cured.

Cure for the Common Universe is a really unique story about a boy who gets sent to video game rehab — only the rehab itself is set up like a video game, with points, leveling up, tournaments, and side quests. The cast of characters is extremely quirky and diverse, and all the characters do really get on your nerves — but their personal stories also make you care about them.

Basically, Jaxon, a video game addict, sets up the first date in his life — only to be sent away to rehab four days before said date. At rehab, which is set up like an IRL game, players — erm, patients — have to earn a million points before they’re discharged. So, most of the book is about Jaxon’s frantic mission to accumulate said amount of points to make it to his date on time.

You can imagine that Jaxon’s stay at rehab isn’t as much about healing as it is about gaming the system and winning. The beginning is pretty funny, the middle drags, and the end is very entertaining. There’s a somewhat out of left-field plot twist that happens and seems super coincidental. You might see it coming, but I didn’t — though it makes sense regarding the whole “healing” aspect. It’s kind of like a giant wake-up call and that’s all I’ll say about it.

There are countless video game references, and while I got most of them, I didn’t get all. Most of the references are to pretty popular and well-known games, so casual gamers like me can get a chuckle (“I’ll throw you up there like a Pikmin” was one of my favorites), but I kind of was expecting to see many more references to lesser-known niche games that I wouldn’t get. Or maybe they were there and I 100% didn’t even pick up on them because they were so subtle. Heh.

In the end, I enjoyed Cure for the Common Universe. Jaxon is a jerk most of the time, and the other characters have their unlikable moments, but his crazy IRL gaming shenanigans are entertaining despite the fact that they often drag on too long. The supporting characters are a colorful group, though I was never enamored by any of them. This is a fun, quick read, but it didn’t explore things like addiction, actual therapy, and recovery as deeply and realistically as it could have. While not a perfect read, I do recommend Cure for the Common Universe if you like video games and unconventional story settings, and just want a light, fast read with cute Animal Crossing references. ♦

Have you read Cure for the Common Universe?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a book about video games or games in general you recommend?
Comment below letting me know!

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