Danny Lazio doesn’t get along with kids. It’s not really his fault – his single mom does the best she can to provide, but his classmates still come down on him for it. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that he has a bit of a temper, but who can blame him when kids say he has fleas and his mom gets his clothes from the dumpster? It’s fine – having no friends just gives him more time to play his favorite game Land X, where he’s chugging along up past level 60.
But Eric Young wants to be his friend. Eric already has hundreds of friends. Just checkout his social media, and see him eating lunch with the most popular boys in school. Eric is intrigued by Danny, the one person he hasn’t seen online and who doesn’t appear to care about clothes and stuff. When Danny begrudgingly connects with him over their shared passion for Land X, Eric decides to make Danny popular and make him his friend.
Danny isn’t sure what Eric’s deal is, but he sure is a weirdo. He is obviously rich – always sporting the best brand sneakers (Slick) and best branded sportswear (Orlean) with the best phone, you get it. But the kid has no sense of humor or sarcasm and is unbelievably naive. But he’s also extremely genuine. His family is weird too! They’re always smiling, they go to the dentist once a week, and his parents seem borderline neglectful to Eric (An empty fridge; Leaving Eric alone all the time; Not seeming to care much when he gets injured.) In getting to know Eric, Danny begins to see that he has something much deeper going on behind the fancy house and odd behavior. Something… not quite human.
My first Cannonball of 2020! What a delightful book to start the year off on. Friendroid has a great hook to start: Two friends, one is a robot, but he doesn’t know it. And we find out right off the bat that Eric has been killed – Danny is sharing his journal with us in hopes of exposing his story. The reader gets to enjoy Eric (nicknamed Slick by Danny once their friendship is established) and his robotic naivete, along with his journey towards sentience. It’s like light-hearted Westworld for the tween set. What if robots lived among us, and what if one was your best friend?
The book is very funny and heartfelt. The motivation behind the androids is relevant and offers a very light and accessible introduction to dystopian themes (but in a current setting). Danny is a very likeable narrator with relatable flaws and his narration is very authentic. So is Eric’s, android-status notwithstanding.
Highly recommended to those who enjoy middle-grade (I think kids and young teens would both enjoy this book. It nicely straddles that “not a kid anymore but not ready for YA” audience.)