Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: In Real Life By Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

In Real Life By Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 175 pages
My Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake. 

From acclaimed teen author (Little BrotherFor the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.
I initially wanted to read this graphic novel because as I've mentioned on this blog a lot lately I've really got back into gaming. I haven't played a game like Anda plays in this story. Coarsegold is a MMORPG in the same vein as World of Warcraft or something similar. I haven't really ventured into those gaming types yet, and I'm not really sure if they would be my thing. However, this graphic novel really paints that world pretty elegantly. And by paint, I mean Jen Wang's brightly colored depictions really bring it to life. I love the artwork and the style in this graphic novel a lot. Honestly it was probably the best thing about this one.

The plot of the novel was where it kind of lost me. For the most part I felt like it was very preachy. I'm sorry, but when I play video games, I am not thinking about the plight of poor people in other countries. I'm thinking about how easy it's going to be to sneak attack some frost troll with my mad archery skills. I get what Doctorow is doing with the plot, but it came off as "I've got something to say" and it just wasn't what I was expecting out of this one. I'm not trying to put down the message, because I think what he's trying to say is a good message I just think the execution was very shaming to the reader, and I wasn't a fan of that.

I think the major thing that really bothered me was that Anda is so concerned that what this gold farmer is doing is against the rules, but she doesn't bat an eye about people giving her money on paypal for raids. I had a HUGE problem with this, because it made her seem like a huge hypocrite. I'm pretty sure both are against the rules, which we do learn much later in the novel. I found myself agreeing with her mom when she finds the names of all these strange men giving her young teenage daughter money on paypal and she freaks out. I do not blame her mom at all for that! I would have had the same reaction, and I found her mom's concern realistic and kind of acceptable. I am glad that we do see parents active in their kid's life, instead of having the absent parent trope. 

This one wasn't my favorite, but I still would recommend this one because the art alone is worth your time.

Don't forget about my Comic Book Month Giveaway!

Happy Reads Everyone!