Why Does Skurzynski Open Nethergrave?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Gloria Skurzynski opens “Nethergrave” by describing Jeremy’s soccer blunder to portray him as athletically challenged.
  • Skurzynski was motivated to write “Nethergrave” because of her lifelong interest in science fiction.
  • The central theme she wanted to explore was adventure, kicked off when the characters time travel.


Gloria Skurzynski’s young adult science fiction novel “Nethergrave” has captured readers’ imagination since its publication in 2004. The book begins in an unexpected way – by showing the protagonist Jeremy scoring a goal for the opposing team during a soccer game. This scene provides an intriguing opening that immediately reveals key information about the main character. But why did the author choose to introduce Jeremy and the story in this manner?

An evaluation of Skurzynski’s motivations and thematic goals provides insight into her narrative choices. Specifically, analysis shows that the opening scene serves to portray Jeremy as athletically inept and establishes “adventure” as the overarching theme, initiated through time travel. Appreciating why the author crafted the beginning this way allows for a deeper understanding of foundational elements of the novel.

This article will comprehensively examine the opening of “Nethergrave” and the reasoning behind it. The literary effectiveness of the exposition will be explored from the perspectives of character development and thematic introduction. Close consideration will be given to how Gloria Skurzynski’s background influenced her writing decisions. Additionally, the adventurous nature of the story will be analyzed in relation to the time travel catalyst.

Readers will gain valuable perspective on the deliberate narrative techniques employed by the author. The in-depth analysis will uncover the foundational choices that shaped “Nethergrave” into an impactful work of fiction. Whether already familiar with the novel or not, the insights presented will provide enlightening context for interpreting and appreciating the story.

Why Does Skurzynski Portray Jeremy as Athletically Challenged at the Outset?

The very first scene of “Nethergrave” depicts protagonist Jeremy scoring a goal for the opposing team in a soccer match, establishing him as athletically inept. This is an intentional choice by Gloria Skurzynski to characterize Jeremy in a specific manner right from the start. But why did she elect to introduce the protagonist this way?

There are a few key reasons the author decided to portray Jeremy as physically uncoordinated and sports-averse:

  • It provides contrast to his prowess with technology/computers – Jeremy is revealed early on to be a tech prodigy capable of ingenious programming feats. Showing him struggle at sports juxtaposes this ability.
  • It gives him an underdog appeal – Flawed protagonists who overcome challenges can be endearing for readers. Jeremy being athletically challenged despite his other talents makes him an underdog.
  • It explains his social difficulties – Jeremy is depicted as a bit of a loner and social outcast. His lack of sports competence helps account for this alienation.
  • It sets up a character arc of self-actualization – Jeremy gains greater athletic capability as the story progresses, allowing him to grow in confidence.

Overall, introducing Jeremy as the opposite of a sports star lays the groundwork for an engaging underdog protagonist who will develop and come into his own over the course of the narrative. Skurzynski makes his athletic ineptitude a cornerstone of his initial characterization.

How Did Skurzynski’s Interest in Science Fiction Motivate “Nethergrave”?

Gloria Skurzynski has shared that her lifelong enthusiasm for science fiction was a primary inspiration for writing the book “Nethergrave.” She gravitated toward the genre from a young age and was an avid reader of classic works by H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke. This passion provided the impetus to craft her own contribution.

Specifically, Skurzynski’s interest in speculative concepts compelled her to write a story dealing with virtual reality and computer simulation. In the early 2000s when she was developing “Nethergrave,” VR technology was starting to enter public consciousness but was still obscure. The author recognized this cutting-edge digital realm was ripe for imaginative exploration.

The core premise of a simulated world that becomes inescapably real for the characters directly stems from Skurzynski’s intrigue with futuristic technologies. Her innate affinity for science fiction motivated her to extrapolate ahead and envision an immersive, hyper-advanced digital environment.

Beyond this central concept, Skurzynski’s grounding in the genre guided other aspects of the narrative. The book’s brisk pacing, element of time travel, and focus on adventure all align with conventions of popular science fiction. So at its core, “Nethergrave” was a chance for the author to merge her lifelong genre appreciation with modern technological subjects she found fascinating.

How Does Skurzynski Establish “Adventure” as the Thematic Focus?

A key theme that Gloria Skurzynski wanted to explore in “Nethergrave” was the concept of adventure, specifically adventure catalyzed through time travel. This central idea is established right at the start of the book and impacts the characters’ journeys throughout.

The initial soccer scene plants seeds of adventure when Jeremy suddenly visualizes himself transported to a time when soccer didn’t exist. While brief, this moment introduces speculative and imaginative thinking. It primes readers that fantastical, adventure-based concepts will be integral.

The adventure theme ramps up substantially when Jeremy secretly logs onto the Nethergrave simulation and travels back in time. This catapults him into an intricately realized medieval realm filled with quests and perils. For the first time, he experiences total immersion in an exciting, dangerously real adventure.

Nethergrave itself essentially serves as a portal into unlimited virtual adventures. The simulation becomes the main setting where Jeremy and his friends explore, take risks, and embark on speculative journeys. So the entire simulated world embodies adventure.

By bookending the first chapter with Jeremy fantasizing about time travel, then actually doing it through Nethergrave, Skurzynski firmly cements “adventure” as the story’s focus. Readers are oriented to expect this theme will drive the narrative events and character arcs.

How Does Time Travel Kick Off the Sense of Adventure?

As highlighted, time travel is the specific narrative device Gloria Skurzynski employs to launch the adventure theme of “Nethergrave” from the very first chapter. Jeremy’s initial imaginative leap to another era during the soccer game foreshadows the time traveling escapades to come.

Once inside the simulated Nethergrave world, journeying to the past provides unlimited scope for adventure. The medieval setting allows for dragons, wizards, quests, and sword fights – classic adventure tropes. Skurzynski utilizes time travel to construct an imaginative virtual realm unconstrained by reality.

Beyond the setting, the act of time traveling itself aligns with adventure. Hurtling hundreds of years backward transports Jeremy and his friends out of their mundane lives into an existence of risk, thrill, and discovery. The temporal relocation is portrayed as metaphysically dizzying and life-changing.

On a symbolic level, the voyage to the past represents escape and liberation. Jeremy is freed from social alienation and bullying through the adventures in Nethergrave. This reinforces time travel as a narrative emblem of adventure and self-actualization.

So in various ways, making time travel the entry to Jeremy’s adventures situates the concept as a foundational spark for the story’s action and thematic arc. Skurzynski creatively employs it as portal into boundless virtual quests and transformation.

Why Does the Author Open with Jeremy’s Soccer Blunder Specifically?

As discussed, Gloria Skurzynski opens “Nethergrave” by depicting protagonist Jeremy accidentally scoring a goal for the other soccer team. But she did not have to choose this exact scenario to portray his athletic ineptitude. A range of sports mishaps could have sufficed. So why did Skurzynski elect to establish Jeremy’s lack of coordination using soccer specifically?

Several factors likely motivated this decision:

  • Familiarity – Soccer is broadly known and played worldwide, making it easily relatable.
  • Visual humor – The mental image of scoring for the opposing side is humorously absurd.
  • Metaphorical significance – Jeremy’s lack of direction alludes to deeper identity issues.
  • Economy – Soccer’s continuous flow allows Jeremy’s mistake to occur quickly and compactly.

Overall, soccer is simply an efficient, universally recognized means for Skurzynski to vividly encapsulate Jeremy’s lack of athletic prowess within a brief opening scene. The mix of relatability, humor, symbolic meaning, and briskness make his soccer own-goal an impactful opening.

Why Is the Character of Jeremy Important for Skurzynski’s Story?

Jeremy is the protagonist that Gloria Skurzynski chose for “Nethergrave,” meaning his perspective guides the narrative and he undergoes the primary transformation. Several of his key character traits make him ideally suited for the story Skurzynski aimed to tell:

  • Technological aptitude – Jeremy’s computer skills allow him to access/navigate Nethergrave, the story’s main setting.
  • Outsider status – His social alienation provides motivation to escape into virtual adventure.
  • Restless intellect – Jeremy is curious about history, priming his interest in time travel.
  • Underdog appeal – His struggles to find confidence and belonging enable an engaging character arc.
  • Youthful imagination – Jeremy’s teenage mindset embraces the speculative concept of Nethergrave.

Overall, the multidimensional qualities Skurzynski gives Jeremy allow him to propel the plot, underscore themes, evolve in relatable ways, and lend an accessible teen perspective for readers. He is exactly the type of protagonist this narrative requires.

Why Is Time Travel Central for the Story’s Adventurous Theme?

As analyzed earlier, Gloria Skurzynski utilizes time travel to generate a sense of adventure in “Nethergrave.” This narrative technique is particularly impactful for adventure-themed young adult fiction for several key reasons:

  • It provides escape from the real world into an imaginative setting unconstrained by reality.
  • It delivers wish fulfillment by letting characters explore the past firsthand.
  • It creates high stakes through the dangers of altering history.
  • It allows for exoticism via experiences like medieval quests.
  • It drives character growth by building skills like independence and courage.

Overall, time travel is a profoundly effective adventure catalyst because it taps directly into the escapist wish fulfillment and coming-of-age aspirations that characterize young adult fiction. Skurzynski harnessed its storytelling power skillfully.

How Does Jeremy’s Eventual Athletic Competence Reflect His Wider Arc?

As highlighted earlier, Jeremy is portrayed as athletically inept at the start of “Nethergrave” but gradually gains physical competence as the story progresses. This improvement reflects his broader character arc of growing in independence and self-belief.

His early sports failures stem partly from lack of confidence, not just innate clumsiness. But through the autonomy and accomplishment Jeremy gains in Nethergrave, he sheds self-doubt and anxiety. Readers see this manifest as he begins excelling at real-world physical feats like climbing and fencing.

Ultimately, his emerging athletic skill marks Jeremy’s overall shift from social outcast to mature, self-realized young adult. Like his tech skills gave him strength in Nethergrave, his physical prowess grants success in reality. He integrates his virtual growth into real life.

So Jeremy’s increasing sporting ability directly mirrors his overall coming-of-age transformation. Skurzynski reflects his holistic development through this tangible metric of physical coordination and confidence.


In opening “Nethergrave” with Jeremy’s soccer own-goal, Gloria Skurzynski makes a strategic choice that significantly shapes the narrative and introduces core themes. Analysis reveals how Jeremy’s characterization as athletically challenged and the adventurous time travel plot work together to craft an impactful young adult story.

Ultimately, Skurzynski’s deft exposition in the first chapter sets up an intriguing underdog protagonist and establishes virtual adventure enabled by speculative technology and time travel. Appreciating the author’s intentional foundations provides deeper insight into the world and journey she constructed. For readers, the insights help unlock the full richness of “Nethergrave.”

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