Book Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

This review can also be found on my Goodreads.

Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: I love video games, computer games, hand-held games, the whole nine yards. Seeing a graphic novel with a teenage girl playing a MMORPG, I could not pass it up.

First, let me say the artwork is beautiful. Jen Wang did a wonderful job throughout.

Anda, the main female character, is in school when Liza, a member of the MMORPG Coarsegold Online, comes to visit. Liza encourages the girls in the class to join the game as female characters and become temporary members of her guild. If they show promise, they could become permanent members. Now, I say Liza encourages them to be female characters because when she asked the girls who did play video games if they play as females, they all said no. Now, I know when I play a video game and have the option to be a female, I usually pick it. Sometimes I’m annoyed with the clothing options, but what can I do. Still, I can understand why girls don’t play as females. The gaming world is still pretty masculine. Guys don’t think girls can be gamers and when they are, they’re made fun of. When will I see a game like Assassins Creed with a female lead? (I heard rumors they were going to and then they didn’t for very stupid reasons, but I’m not going to get into that)

So, the whole “Women can be gamers and be themselves in games” was a great message. I liked that about this story. I also liked the no-bulling aspect when Anda stands up to Lucy on her actions toward gold farmers.

What I wasn’t a huge fan of was the story with Raymond. Raymond is a poor sixteen year old in China who plays Coarsegold Online as a job for a majority of his day, and a few hours for fun. He works in order to pay for school, but he also works in a factory, lifting boxes. His health isn’t doing so well, but he doesn’t have any health benefits. Anda decides to convince Raymond to start a strike with his coworkers and Raymond gets caught and fired.

Anda feels horrible about it, and one of Raymond’s friends tells her that it’s her fault, and Anda agrees. In order to make things right, she and recruits from her guild sent out a message to Raymond’s coworkers to get them to demand benefits. Raymond ends up getting a different job still working on Coarsegold Online.

We don’t find out what happens with his old co-workers. But that’s not what I’m upset/hesitant about. I didn’t like how Anda comes out of no where and convinces this guy to cause a riot at his job. While she was trying to help, she actually caused more harm. She got him fired from a job. We see how Anda feels, but how does Raymond feel? Does he not hold any resentment toward her? What went through his mind when he was trying to see if his coworkers were unhappy?

I know this story was about Anda, but…she comes into Raymond’s life, turns it upside down without really knowing anything and then the end. Not a very good way to go.

My final thoughts: Beautiful artwork with an iffy story-line.

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