"Fiercely independent high school senior Jade Leigh is every bit the nonconformist. With her goth appearance and her sarcastic wit, she doesn't hide her disdain for her lame teachers or the boring jocks in her classes. Who needs them, she values her individuality and free thinking more than anything else in the world. But everything changes after her smart mouth lands her in hot water and the school principal decides to teach her a lesson she won't likely forget. Jade is shocked to find herself in a virtual reality game that is a Freaky Friday-like alternate world - where suddenly everyone around her is goth and she's just one of the crowd." - Amazon.co.uk product description.
What the product description fails to mention is that sarky, loveable Jade is not just 'one of the crowd'; she's switched places with the most popular girl in school, her sworn enemy, Barbie-girl and head cheerleader Mercedes. My first thought was, "Really? Sworn enemies, just because one of them is mainstream and the other a Goth?" But no, there is good reason for the two girls to hate each other, which makes it all the worse when they are thrown together, as Mercedes is trapped in the game too, a pink-clad blonde outcast in a world full of Goths.
Enter mysterious Clarik, the new boy who fits into none of the school's cliques but is turning teen girls' heads (including - you guessed it - Mercedes's and Jade's) everywhere he goes.
There are no huge surprises in store, and the book occasionally touches on the borderline of being preachy with its message of tolerance and understanding other people before you judge them. However it's nice that it looks at both sides, which might help some younger Goths to realise that stereotyping mainstream kids as 'Nazi conformist cheerleaders' (I just love that line. No, it's not from Oh My Goth, it's from South Park) is just as bad as when we get called weirdos and freaks.
I was slightly irked by the fact that Jade and her friends seem to be trying just a little too hard to be non-conformist, including developing their own slang ('fright' instead of 'cool') to set themselves apart from the 'Barbies', but I suppose it would be difficult to give a message of tolerance if the Goths were entirely unjudgemental. Plus, they do put up with a lot of crap from the 'Barbies' and jocks, in which instance it isn't surprising that they would want to set themselves apart.
Nonetheless, Jade is easy for teenagers, Goth or not, to relate to as a heroine - she is spirited, opinionated and headstrong, and not afraid to be herself, despite the harassment she gets every day from everyone from her classmates to her father. As a fashion geek, I liked reading about Jade's outfits, although there was a continuity error that bugs me every time I read the book - Jade starts the day wearing a miniskirt, but when she gets into Clarik's car she is suddenly wearing jeans...
I also enjoyed reading about the world according to Goth, inside the virtual reality game, which includes afterschool clubs where kids can dabble in the dark arts or plan their own funerals, and liked the fact that Jade has more problems in her life than simply not being popular. The book also neatly captures the isolation and harrassment that many young Goths fall victim to during their school years.
All right, it's not hugely intellectual, but overall it's a slightly cheesy but good fun read, great for young-to-mid teens and fans of other young adult novels in the vein (pun intended) of Ellen Schrieber's Vampire Kisses.