Friday, September 12, 2014

Teen/YA Review: In Real Life

I am fairly new to teen/YA graphic novels (though I’ve reviewed a few middle grade graphic novels). Earlier this summer, I read This One Summer and really enjoyed it, so I decided to try another YA graphic novel, In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. It tackles some real-life issues within an engaging story.

Anda is a teen girl who enjoys playing video games. From the opening scenes, we can see that she is part of a loving family but is feeling a bit isolated, having recently moved to a new city. A speaker comes to Anda’s school to talk to the teen girls about online gaming. Girls are seriously under-represented in the world of online games, and the speaker entices the girls in Anda’s class to join a popular online game called Coarsegold and even join her “guild,” a team within the game.

Anda is interested in giving Coarsegold a try, but first she has to convince her parents that it’s safe and will be good for her to be a part of a team. They agree, and Anda is pulled into the exciting game, thrilled to be part of the guild, and loving her new kick-ass avatar.  It’s all fun, until Anda learns that some of the much-maligned “gold farmers” in the game are actually kids from around the world, earning money so their families can eat. All of a sudden, the game is more than just a game to Anda, and she tries to find a way to help a newfound friend on the other side of the world.

This novel works on several levels. It’s an interesting and engaging story of a teen girl who gains confidence and grows through her love of video games. But this book also tackles some important real-life issues: the lack of girls and female role models in the online gaming world and the economic and political issues of gold farming (where players participate in a game only so they can sell things on the black market). Not being a teen or a gamer, I’d never even heard of gold farming before, but this novel provided a good introduction, and the authors included more details in an introduction.

All in all, In Real Life is a compelling story with a likable main character who uses her compassion and intelligence to resolve a problem. Along the way, she improves her self-esteem, makes new friends, and has a lot of fun, too! The illustrations were fun to look at, with the story going back and forth between Anda’s real-world life and her experiences within the game (click here to see some sample pages). I can’t wait to read more YA graphic novels!

175 pages, First Second

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:10 PM

    I personally really liked this book. Especially how the characters were drawn. However, when I tired to look up how the illustrator drew them I couldn`t find anything about it. I tried doing it my self, but it just looked wrong.