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Level Up

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  3,575 ratings  ·  501 reviews
Dennis Ouyang has always struggled in the shadow of his parents' expectations. His path is laid out for him: stay focused in high school, become a gastroenterologist. It may be hard work, but it isn't complicated … until suddenly it is.

Between his father's death, his academic burnout, and his deep (and distracting) love of video games, Dennis is nowhere near where his fami
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by First Second (first published 2011)
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The Holy Terror
It pisses me off when people vilify video games. You can go to med school and play games during your down-time. My brother is in grad school and he still finds time for his hobbies. Video games are not some evil time-waster that'll rot your brain, preventing you from graduating or excelling in school. You don't have to give up something you love to become a grown-up, and I find it insulting that this book insinuates that only lazy people who don't want to get ahead in life would play video games ...more
Seth Hahne
There was this one scene in Gene Yang's Level Up that struck truer for me than maybe any other two-panel pair in the history of comics. In it, a friend describes the Nintendo Entertainment System to a young Dennis. Let's listen in:

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham

The reason this scene resonated so strongly with me was that this was word for word my own response to the discovery that such a machine would be coming to American shores. I mean, give or take a word. The impact of gaming systems on my young life was indelible, stampi
This trim little graphic novel has been picking up some buzz, much like everything else that Gene Luen Yang does. Plus, the cover looks like a classic Game Boy. Win. Seriously, though, I was pleasantly surprised by this graphic novel. What looked like and began as a familiar story about a disillusioned young person finding solace in video games turned into a quirky, profound morality play about coming to terms with your family and creating your own destiny.

Dennis Ouyang is on the verge of being
A coming of age story about a young man who struggles to fulfill his destiny. From a young age he is interested in video games, but his father doesn't support this hobby. When his father passes away while the young man is still in high school he delays the grieving process with hardcore gaming.

Years pass and the young man is flunking college. A band of angels appear and help steer the boy to his destiny: med school so he can become a gastroenterologist and help save people from suffering the wa
KB Wayne
My smarty-pants nine year-old adores this book -- it'd come up on a "recommended for you" page on Amazon so I got it. He read it a few times one afternoon, so I grabbed it for a quick read as well. From my adult perspective I found it charming with more than a touch of melancholy.

Beautifully written and beautifully drawn.

In general the maturity of the book is (clearly) beyond a nine year-old, but it proved great fodder for us to talk at the dinner table about what we'd read and taken away from "
Telling the story of an Asian American youth torn between his passion for video games and his sense of obligation towards his parents, Level Up touches upon several potentially interesting topics: the meaning of family and community in an increasingly individualized society; the role of commercial culture; the growing pressure to attend higher education and the closely related prolongation of youth...

Unfortunately, Level Up has very little to say about any of these topics. What is more, the thin
I really liked this graphic novel! The way video games were used in both metaphorical and literal senses were very clever. I also thought there was meaningful message, and it was even humorous at times.
Written by the author of American Born Chinese, and illustrated by Thien Pham, Level Up tells the story of an Asian American man (Dennis) torn between the expectations of his family (in this case, to be a doctor) and following his own passion (in this case, video games). Pushing him further are four adorable greeting card angels who "help" him to concentrate on his destiny. I like it when an author uses elements of speculative fiction to talk about real world issues, and does it well. This is on ...more
About once a year I check out a stack of graphic novels from the library and go on a comics bender. Level Up was on top of the stack today, and it was a quick, fun read with a lot of strengths. The story takes some unexpected turns (including an element of magical realism) that keep you guessing, and there's an emotional core to the story (in the form of a card given to the main character by his father) that's really moving. Then there's the ending, which is priceless.

I think this would be an e
Dennis Ouyang struggles to live up to his parents' high expectations through college and med school when all he really wants to do is play video games. With a little help from a quartet of seemingly innocent angels, he learns to find his true destiny.

Gene Luen Yang's latest graphic novel, illustrated by Thien Pham, tells a story of family loyalty and finding your true calling in beautiful full color illustrations. A touch of magical realism and snippets of med school mayhem bring some lightheart
*this review contains spoilers!*
"Level Up" is a fantasy graphic novel about a boy named Dennis Ouyang. Dennis is from a Chinese family and is trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. Dennis's father has told Dennis that it is his "destiny" to become a gastroenterologist. Dennis doesn't want to work in this profession. Throughout the whole story, Dennis questions why his father would force such a destiny upon him. Dennis also struggles with understanding what is the right path t
What's it about? Dennis' parents have always had high expectations for what they wanted him to do in his life, but he just wanted to be a regular kid, playing video games and having fun. After his father's death, he tries to decide what to do with his life, and is visited by four strange 'angels'.

Why did I read it?: I really enjoyed the author's 'American Born Chinese' AND I like video games. This seemed like a natural choice.

Favourite idea/part?: It was poignant. I liked the angels and their ro
Beth Cato
The art is simple yet very enjoyable in this graphic novel. It's a magical realist plot, and it went a very different direction than I expected. I expected it to be much more about video games and nostalgia; the first section sets this up in a beautiful way that I could strongly relate to. But then Dennis abandons the video games he loves and slogs through medical school, and it becomes more about angst and drama between friends... and also, the fact that four angels live in Dennis's place, and ...more
Stacey B.
This one surprised me. I really enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I especially loved the ending.
Dore' Ripley
Level Up, the latest work by Printz Award winner Gene Luen Yang and artist Thien Pham, is sweet, nostalgic, mysterious, and has enough twists to keep you turning the pages. Dennis Ouyang is a video game enthusiast whose late night tournaments lead to his collegiate demise, but not to worry: Four greeting-card angels soon put him back on the path. In spite of the angels’ incessant coffee brewing, Dennis soon quits medical school and takes up gaming professionally, so why isn’t he happy? He discov ...more
Rain Misoa
Apr 09, 2013 Rain Misoa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gamers and people who love graphic novels!
Recommended to Rain by: Library
Shelves: graphic-novels
This is my second graphic novel that I've read by Gene Luen Yang, the first being American Born Chinese and it does NOT disappoint. I first heard of this comic from a YouTube video a few years back and I knew, me being a gamer, I would love this tremendously. After I read American Born Chinese and saw how much I enjoyed that story, it was a given that I was going to LOVE this book~ Well, the other day, I'm browsing the library and, lo and behold, there it was! On the shelf! In all its glory! I w ...more
Dennis Ouyang, a wandering teenage boy finds his one passion in life- to play video games. And he's pretty damn good!
After his father's death, Dennis starts ONLY playing video games and finds himself kicked out of college in his junior year.
Suddenly, four small angels turn up to help him clean, study and focus on his destiny- to get into medical school and become a gastroenterologist. And then things get... weird. Of course we all think these angels are awesome and they are! Aren't they? They d
Being an only child in the family, of course your parents would expect a lot from you. One little mess up and of course the would yell at you. Whether it's elementary school, high school, college, and a great job, I would think it's normal for any other parents, no matter what race, to expect you finish this as your first obligations. This book is about a kid named Dennis Ouyang. His father passed away 2 weeks before his graduation. He has a tough decision on what he wants to be. He has two choi ...more
Gene Luen Yang isn't the first to write about the American immigrant experience (Chinese or otherwise), but he's one of the best doing this in the comic format, and he does so with a sweet, modern, and insightful style and a dry sense of humor. What I like best about his comics are their knack for putting all the forces and voices in the hero's life on the page, and then staunchly refusing to take sides or make easy good guys and bad guys out of them.

Level Up does all these things, and does them
Despite the Game Boy cover art, video games are not the main focus of this comic. Instead, they're a clear influence in the artwork and the structure of the story, but the main theme is more about the struggle to figure out what path in life will make you happy and reconcile that with what your parents and family desire for you.

This explores the question of what it means to live up to someone's expectations - in this case, Dennis' father has always expected that Dennis will go to medical school
Carly Carter
I was so disappointed with this book; I wanted SO MUCH for it to be awesome. I thought it was going to be really good because it was about video games, but I was disappointed to find out that it wasn't a book at all, but a graphic novel (and a bad one at that!). I read the whole thing in half an hour, and was left feeling like I was cheated out of what was supposed to be a great experience.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
An interesting tale of strict parenting, a natural gift for video games and the relationships that develop in between. It was humorous and evocative of the struggles many young people face when they start moving away from their parents and try to decide what they want to do with their life.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, especially the various revelations that happen as Dennis "levels up" as he chooses between his dreams and his parent's expectations. Sometimes you don't exactly know what you want u
Kris Sellgren
This charming graphic novel is about a young man's path towards med school at one level. But it is also about family expectations, the death of a parent, unrequited love, and video games. I enjoyed "Level Up" enough to want to read his award-winning graphic novel "American Born Chinese".
I gotta say it - I missed Yang's pictures. Although his storytelling is absolutely good enough to suck you in no matter what the pictures look like, I feel like the magical realism elements to this story didn't work as well in watercolor as they do in the computer-based illustrations Yang used in American Born Chinese.

That said, I appreciated that this wasn't just another "Asian-amerikan kid under massive pressure by his parents" story. I enjoyed the detail in the medical school and video game
A boy grows up under his father's No Video Games rules, and buys a Nintendo immediately after his father's death. Video games become all-consuming, and it takes four spritely angels to get him back into school, where he loses himself again.

I don't want to say too much and ruin the plot--it's not a very long book--but the video games really propel the story, right through the way the main character deals with the angels following him. It's a story I can see many teens identifying with (a desire t
I just sat & read this at the library and I enjoyed it...brought back memories of playing Nintendo when I was younger.

I haven't read American Born Chinese but I heard this one was good. I wish I had read this earlier because I had a lot of boys at my other school who loved video games & graphic novels. I think they would have liked this because this shows both sides of perusing video games for a career. I wonder if this book was kind of autobiographical about the author.

I liked the theme
I liked this but not as much as 'American Born Chinese.'
The book level up is about Dennis Ouyang, a college student battling a gaming addiction, horrible grades and the death of his father. Upon getting kicked out of school for his lack of good grades he goes back home to find 4 spirits. The spirits make the dean of the school change their mind about kicking him out. Upon returning the four “angels” help him with his studies, and basically do everything for him so he can focus on his grades and get into college. After he gets stellar grades and makes ...more
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Just starting a new conversation for our new books! 9 30 Sep 30, 2012 06:53PM  
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Gene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan's Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book. American Born Chinese received National Book Award.

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