Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mini Review: In Real Life by Jen Wang and Cory Doctorow

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
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.
"I'm impressed by this story, and I'm so glad it lived up to my expectations."

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher. This did not impact my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.

In Real Life is another fabulous book from First Second. Not only am I huge fan of the fact that the book involves girls who game (which is so rare in books but pretty common in reality), but I'm also really happy about the way the girls, particularly Anda, are drawn. Yay for body diversity and no body shaming! I loved the colors and illustrations in the book, and it worked so perfectly with the plot. The book is gorgeous.

Speaking of the plot, I really enjoyed it. I was drawn into the story, rooting for the various characters. The story really makes readers think about their actions and about the consequences of your actions on someone else. In our globalized world, you never know how what you do affects people you've never even met "in real life." In Real Life explores morality and the struggle between what's right and wrong. So often in life, it's not a black or white answer, and there's no way we can anticipate what the affect of our actions and words can be. And the book explores globalization, economics, politics, and culture in a cohesive, understandable way. It's rarely done well, but I think it was amazingly well incorporated in In Real Life.

Andi grows so much throughout the book, and it's so evident, even though it's gradual and realistically done. I'm impressed by this story, and I'm so glad it lived up to my expectations. My only issue is that as some other reviewers have mentioned, it feels like there's a very fine line between a white girl coming in and saving the Chinese kids and a normal girl just trying to accept herself and coming to terms with her mistakes, leading her to help the Chinese kids save themselves. I don't really know how I feel about this. On the one hand, once I saw someone else mention this, I could see the issue, but while/after reading the book and before reading other people's thoughts, I didn't really notice this or find this to be an issue.
In Real Life: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Jen Wang: Website | Tumblr | Twitter
Cory Doctorow: Website | Twitter

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