Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

irlTitle: In Real Life

Author: Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang (Illustrator)

Publisher: First Second Books

Source: Purchased

Check this book out on Goodreads.

Buy it at: Chapters | Book Depository

5 stars copy

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. 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. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

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. (Source: Goodreads)

In Real Life is a charming story about self-esteem, friendship, and making your own choices. Anda begins playing video games as part of a guild in an attempt to build self-esteem, and make friends. She joins an all girl guild that works to get girls involved in the gaming community and help to make the game, Coarsegold, a better place for all players. Anda meets a Chinese teenager who works on the game selling gold to other players for real money. Raymond, her new friend, is suffering from a back injury and Anda tries to help him get medical care. The story, told through the game and Anda’s real life, focuses on Anda’s journey to find strength, and on her growing friendships with Raymond, kids are school, and girls in the game. I found the story sweet, if a little unrealistic because of the sweetness, and charming. I enjoyed reading the book a lot because it had so many positives. I do have some, sort of nitpicky comments, but otherwise I really enjoyed everything in the book.

Anda is really incredibly sweet. I found her charming and fun, and I loved following her story. To start with she is kind of badass, and really skilled at gaming, which is just amazing. On top of that she is really beautiful and adorable and amazing. The art in this book is fantastic all around, but Anda herself is just the most gorgeous thing in the entire world, and no I’m not talking about her avatar. She’s very naive, which is kind of important to the plot, but also acts to make the whole book a little too sweet for realism, because it all sort of wraps up too nicely. I think the growth that Anda goes through in the book is really fantastic, and Anda is such a strong character that the book has such a sturdy base and really just rocks.

The relationships in the book are really key to the book. Her friendships in the game really are important to the whole book. For one they act to dispel all that “online relationships aren’t real” nonsense you always hear about. I mean obviously one should have reservations about going online at a young age, but the people you meet online are as real as the people you meet offline. Raymond is the perfect example of this. Raymond is such a realistic person, he has desires and needs even though we don’t get to see “him” just his avatar. The relationship they build is so sweet. The relationships she makes with other girls are really awesome too and show off the amazing community of online girl gamers. The only not-so-great friends she has? Her D&D friends who are kind of judgemental jerks.

The art, as I’ve already mentioned, is really amazing. It’s pretty clean which is exactly to my taste. However, there is a lot of depth to it which is just fantastic. The colour palette is pretty fantastic. There’s a lot of colour online and more drab colours in the real world, but Anda really draws some of that colour out into her own life, which is great. The setting is really well done, in game and in real life. I am such a huge fan of the art in this book.

My few, nitpicky, complaints, they’re mostly about plot points. First of all, it was a little weird to that the girls all said they don’t play with girl avatars. I’ve always played as a girl, and all the girls I know play as girls. Playing as one of those badass, super strong warrior or superheros or what ever else has always made me feel confident and happy, seeing strong female characters is always so amazing. Next was the Chinese language use. I don’t speak Chinese, which doesn’t really matter as everything was translated, but I had a friend check the the translations and see if the Chinese was legit, it was (woo, that’s awesome). My actual note is that my friend complained about the mixed use of traditional and simplified because he found it annoying to read. So that’s just kind of a note. The other thing was, as I mentioned, the to sweet, too clean, too perfect ending. Everything was too neatly wrapped up, despite the fact that the issues in the book are so much bigger than what Anda knows. I found it a little unrealistic that the strike worked out so perfectly. I also think that have such a neat ending just made me annoyed because most of the time things aren’t so neat.

All in all though, I really enjoyed this book! First Second, as always, publishes the best stuff. This is one of my favourite graphic novels in a while, up there with Primates. I highly recommend this book, and I’ll probably reread it in the near future.

Ramble on,

Have you read In Real LifeLet me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out Cory Doctorow at his website and Twitter.
Check out Jen Wang on her Goodreads and Twitter.
Connect with me on Goodreads, BlogLovin, and Twitter.

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