Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Title: In Real Life
Author: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Age Group: Young Adult
Category: Graphic Novel
Release date: October 14th, 2014
Pages: 175 (Paperback)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon | Author

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.

Anda is just your typical teenage girl who happens to like video games.  When she gets the offer to join a guild and get paid for doing what she loves most, she doesn't hesitate to accept.  It's a fun way to pass the time and make friends, pretending to be someone you're not in real life.  Soon, Anda comes to realize that it's a lot more serious than gaming for some people.  For some, it's the only way to make a living.

I loved that this story went a lot deeper than I expected it to.  Paired with gorgeous illustrations, I was hooked on Anda's virtual reality.  When the enemy becomes a friend, she realizes that the people she's going after in the game are real people too.  They're not just bots trying to scam their way through the game in order to make money.  They have jobs, where they work until the early hours of the morning, struggling to keep their eyes open, barely making enough money to get by.

In Real Life was much more than a quick, light read.  It was beautiful and inspiring, and it showed us how different our lives can be from someone else's.  That even through those differences, you can still come together and feel compassion for another person, no matter how much you contrast.

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