Just City

Young Adult - Social Issues
179 Pages
Reviewed on 12/05/2022
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Author Biography

Olga Tymofiyeva, PhD, was born in 1981 in Kyiv, Ukraine. After having lived in Ukraine and Germany, she now lives in the US and works as an Associate Professor of Neuroimaging at the University of California in San Francisco. Just City is Olga’s first fiction book, which reflects her passion for science and critical thinking.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Just City is a coming-of-age story by Olga Tymofiyeva. Twenty-one-year-old Nathan is excited to join the New Entrepreneur Incubator, with his friend Jack, to complete his vision of a start-up company. However, to be a founder, he needs $10000 as pre-seed money to enter the competition. Left with few options, Nathan enrolls to participate in an online multiplayer virtual reality game "rooted in political philosophy." With Jack and a couple of other friends, Nathan immerses himself in the game, only to become progressively frustrated as the days go by. Through his avatar, Nathan experiences the everyday lives of some of the most underprivileged people in society. After meeting others who have very opposite views of the world, Nathan realizes that he must find his own trajectory in life and do his part to change the world for the better.

How do you choose what's right? What's the difference between facts and values? Is it possible to balance science and holistic beliefs? These are some of the questions posed by author Olga Tymofiyeva in this captivating young adult novella that leaves you with a lot to ponder about long after you've finished reading it. Just City carries the underlying theme of the pursuit of a truly perfect society that is fair and just and showcases whether it is possible to attain it. All the characters have specific roles to shed light on the themes. If you love deep philosophical discourse, you will love Just City. Overall, a thought-provoking young adult novella.

Essien Asian

Time is running out for Nathan as he tries to raise the ten thousand dollars of counterpart funding which is his share of the financial obligations for his startup project. As desperation slowly starts to creep in, he turns to his grandmother who makes him an interesting offer. Participate in her one-of-a-kind project and there may just be a chance of walking away with enough money to solve all his problems. What Nathan does not realize is that his grandma's pet project will push him to the limits of his understanding and cause him to question both himself and the people around him whom he considers his true friends. Relationships will be tested in Olga Tymofiyeva's Just City.

Interpersonal relationships play a key role in Just City. Nathan constantly questions his actions with a degree of introspection that would impress deep thinkers. His relationship with his close friend, Jack, tells a story of its own and creates a worthy subplot that I instantly identified with. His grandmother's analytical responses to his inquiries provide the neutral sounding board that is essential for a reader to develop an opinion of their own from this novel. The turning point for me has to be when Nathan discovers the consequences that his decisions will lead him to. Olga Tymofiyeva puts together an impressive novel with Just City. The character development is thorough, the interaction between the characters is deep and thought-provoking, and the storyline touches on a subject that everyone identifies with. I enjoyed reading this book.

Luwi Nyakansaila

Just City by Olga Tymofiyeva is a novel about equality and justice in society. Nathan has led a good life and feels that he has done no wrong thus far. He believes in making choices using logic, and that leaders should be chosen on merit and by class. To raise support for his start-up project, Nathan becomes a test subject of a virtual reality game created by his grandmother. He pitches the idea to his friends Jack, Adam, and Jocelyn. They all agree to participate. This leads to eye-opening betrayals and mindset changes. The more Nathan plays, the more he realizes that this is no ordinary game. He is placed in different people's situations and experiences life through their eyes. Nathan finally understands that some people have no control over their destinies. This makes him re-evaluate his view on life and other people. Join him on his journey as he strives to become a better and just person who treats others with compassion and kindness.

It is impossible to understand what other people are going through because you have not lived a day of their lives. The premise of Just City is to help people reflect on the injustice and unfairness in the world. Nathan undergoes a drastic change and reassesses his views on others and their choices. I loved how his friend Jack also realized the error of his ways. The two create something more empathetic and gradually develop kindness and compassion for others. This is a beautiful story because the lessons learned from it can be applied to our daily lives. Olga Tymofiyeva did a great job of creating intriguing and captivating characters. The descriptions of the scenery, both in and out of the game, were beautifully written and easy to visualize. I enjoyed reading this book and hope to read more from Olga, not only because of her beautiful writing but also for her noble and selfless cause.

Jon Michael Miller

Just City by Olga Tymofiyeva is a must-read story for upwardly mobile, achievement-oriented young adults. Nathan, the twenty-one-year-old, first-person protagonist, is at that stage in life where one tries to figure out one’s “life principles.” He has grown up in a well-off family who believes in realistic hard work. “Realistic” means not wasting money or sympathy on the non-hard working, i.e., the homeless. When his grandma, a neuroscientist, asks him what he believes, she classifies his answer as a meritocracy. His grandma has devised a fascinating virtual reality game called Just City in which players compete for the creation of a culture where justice prevails for all. Nathan gathers up his group of like-minded young “geniuses”, and in the process of playing the game, he discovers some flaws in his present life principles. This discovery leads him into a deep search for what the word “justice” really entails.

Far from a young adult, I was still drawn into this fascinating and challenging question. Ms. Tymofiyeva’s book took me back to those wonderful days of my own search, back when I was in high school and college trying to figure out what life was all about. Like Nathan, who tells this story, I too was indoctrinated with a worldview that came to face challenges that made me question and reevaluate what I believed; and in this brilliantly written book, I became engrossed in the author’s riveting approach to leading readers into the problematic search for self. The questions of Just City by Olga Tymofiyeva (as presented by young floundering Nathan) is, indeed: what would constitute a genuinely justice-oriented society, and what would have to constitute our “life principles” to create such a world? These crucial questions are, however, not only for young adults. Just City will profoundly engage readers of any age.

Vincent Dublado

Just City by Olga Tymofiyeva is a page-turning young adult sci-fi tale that illustrates a possible blur between reality and the virtual world. Nathan is a twenty-one-year-old ambitious entrepreneur, who is eager yet nervous to pitch startup ideas for the New Entrepreneur Incubator with his friend, Jack. To earn money for the startup, Nathan plays a virtual reality game called Just City, an experimental game that explores brain development and free will. This VR game is part of his grandmother’s research study that could earn him considerable capital. This game allows Nathan to be a different character. There are those who believe that the game is rigged, and as Nathan sinks deeper into the game, he begins to question many things to the point of breaking his friendship with Jack. Nathan will get entangled with many concerns that are philosophical in nature and will challenge his beliefs.

Just City is suspenseful and contemplative at the same time. Olga Tymofiyeva writes a story that is sensitive to the intellectual and emotional tides sweeping her characters, and this is reflected in the way they discuss the on-goings in their daily lives, especially their dreams and aspirations. It has a solemn and grandiose theme, which, although explored many times in films and books, Tymofiyeva effectively gives it an angle as a high-tech young adult thriller about the human condition. Nathan’s grandmother is a character worth noting. If knowledge and wisdom are acquired as one ages, then she definitely plays a significant part in the storyline. Just City is far from being the perfect high-tech YA novel, but it has rock-solid confidence in its premise and idea, and exact attention to its plotting. Just City is highly recommended, not just for young adults, but for everyone who enjoys high-tech thrillers.