BUBBLE WORLD is a surprisingly sensitive exploration of the pleasures --- and perils --- of living one's life in a virtual world.
Every day in Freesia's world --- Bubble World on the pristine island of Agalinas --- is absolutely perfect. She wakes up in a gorgeous bedroom in her family's beachside mansion, surrounded by pet peacocks and the sound of her favorite pop song. Her mother brings her coffee and brunch, and Freesia's biggest decision after that involves how to style her perfect hair and which of her dozens of outfits to put on her perfect body.
"BUBBLE WORLD is a satire, for sure, but it's also a surprisingly rich character study of one young woman's growing disillusionment and her decision to take her life into her own hands for the very first time."
Freesia needs to go to school, sure, but when her Spanglish "immersion" class mainly consists of eating nachos while catching up with her friendlies (in English), that's hardly much of a chore. Plus, there's incentives for showing up to class --- mainly that she'll get shells to use as spending money at her favorite clothing boutique, where she loves to go with her best friend Jelissa. And there's always plenty of time to fizz with guys at pool parties or the weekly themed dances in the city of Avalon.
But lately, even though Freesia is completely happy with her life, she's started to notice a few weird glitches in Bubble World. She repeats the same day twice, for example --- something that no one else seems to notice --- and she becomes increasingly aware that some people, like her mother, never change their script no matter what day it is. Then there are kids like Taser, who seems to be losing his grip on reality, and other kids who just...disappear from Agalinas altogether. But it's only when the island (or is it Freesia herself) starts to experience frequent blackouts that she starts to comprehend just how imperfect --- and impermanent --- Bubble World might be.
I don't want to give away too much of the novel's big plot twists here, but suffice it to say that midway through the novel, Freesia is forced to leave the island of Agalinas and rejoin a high school environment that will likely seem far more familiar to readers than the shiny perfection of Avalon. As Freesia comes to terms with family, friends and even a self that is decidedly less than perfect, she must decide where it is she wants to live --- and what she truly values.
Carol Snow's novel starts out as a frothy teen pop confection, albeit one that grows increasingly disorienting. But it evolves into something much more complex and interesting, as the novel considers questions of parental responsibility, teen agency and the potential perils of being more invested in a virtual world than in one's actual life. BUBBLE WORLD is a satire, for sure, but it's also a surprisingly rich character study of one young woman's growing disillusionment and her decision to take her life into her own hands for the very first time. Readers will likely come to appreciate this more thoughtful aspect of the novel as much as they enjoy spending (at least a little) time in the picture-perfect island world Snow has created.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 9, 2013
- Publication Date: July 29, 2014
- Genres: Science Fiction
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Square Fish
- ISBN-10: 1250044413
- ISBN-13: 9781250044419