Katie is decked out in cosplay as she waits in line for the midnight release of a highly anticipated video game when she gets into an argument with a guy trying to take the one in her hand. Thus begins an awkward and sweet friendship/relationship that builds both online and in person, with no help from the constant third wheel of a best friend.
With a similar feel of Scott Pilgrim and Ready Player One, Backward Compatible is definitely the geek romance it’s made out to be. While the actual plot is a bit on the light side, the characters have such a hilarious dynamic with each other that the laugh-out-loud moments make this an incredibly entertaining read. I can perhaps understand the author initially declining my request to review this book, thinking that I wasn’t as into “geek” things even though I am. The book is incredibly heavy on geek terms, especially of the gamer variety. While I am not a big gamer, I knew enough friends in high school who were like the Georges and Lanyons from this book that I was able to see the humour and relate to the situations. In that respect, I wondered at times if it was laying on the inside humour a bit too thick which may alienate potential readers and new fans a bit. It’s tough because you can’t cater to all kinds of readers, and while I very much enjoyed the humour in this book, it may not make sense to others.
That being said, so much of these 20-somethings felt relatable from my high school days. All the awkwardness, the dorky jokes and the hours upon hours of doing nothing but hang out in one person’s house playing video games brought back such nostalgic memories for me. Some of the secondary characters felt a bit one dimensional at times, with the same schtick that got tiresome, but I did love the banter and dynamic between the protagonists. There are some truly funny, and often crass, dialogue but is all in good, smack-talking fun among friends. The tongue-in-cheek warning in the synopsis for Backward Compatible that there is no sex in this book is perhaps not entirely true, and maybe should be rephrased to “no graphic depictions of sex” or something. I probably wouldn’t have even pointed it out if it were not for the emphasis of this in the beginning of the book synopsis and just in case there are readers shopping for perhaps a more all-ages-friendly read.
It’s interesting because even though there’s not a whole lot of big moments that happen in the story, the journey of this young nerdy love that was blossoming – along with a very intrusive best friend – made for a book I couldn’t put down. I loved the different style and take on the New Adult genre, with these characters being in believable situations for their age group. It felt realistic for this day and age and how people make friends, exchanging online handles rather than phone numbers now and friendships grow from a virtual world. What was also very refreshing was that the protagonist, Katie, wasn’t your typical girly-girl even with the introduction of a guy. So many books start off with tough, tomboy-ish girls who completely change who they are once they like someone and I loved that she stayed true to who she was and, in fact, found someone that would complement her rather than change her.