This story brought me back to my video-game days—the roll of the joystick in my twelve-year-old palm, the smell of adolescent sweat, and the dizzying belief the game was out to get me. Now I’m wondering if that might have been true. Branham’s story delves deep into its main character’s consciousness to extract complicated questions about competition and friendship, the relationship between humans and technology, and the chilling question of what it means to be alive. Branham trusts her readers to keep up and crack the codes of the story, and what we’re rewarded with is both a wild fantasy and a nightmare. Keep your coins in your pockets, kids. This one will turn you upside down.
Best Integrated Writing, 5.