The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman [in Library Journal]
Collin, the titular “chalk artist,” waits tables since twice dropping out of college. Nina’s a high school English teacher with a degree from Harvard; she’s also the only child of the legendary founder of the phenomenal video game company Arkadia. Opposites attract; romance happens.
Thinking she’s being helpful, Nina opens the Arkadia door to a lucrative career for Collin. Back in the classroom, one of Nina’s students, Aidan, is more interested in playing – living, really – Arkadia’s EverWhen than reading Emily Dickinson, writing papers, or just about anything else. His twin, Diana, realizes the dire consequences of his gaming addiction, but she first needs to help herself before she can save her brother.
A manipulative programmer, a harried single mother, and a power-hungry uncle are just a few (more) of the additional characters that (over)populate Allegra Goodman’s (Family Markowitz) sprawling, not-quite-focused novel. Narrator Orlagh Cassidy tenaciously muddles through, although her energy seems to wane through the tediously drawn-out details of the virtual world.
Verdict: Despite the promise of intriguing Big Issues – classic literature vs. video games, state-of-the-art computer graphics vs. temporal chalk art – the unwieldy narrative threads ultimately demand more work than they offer enlightenment or provide lasting enjoyment.