Last night, during a snowstorm, my husband and I watched Joaquin Phoenix emote his way through "Her." Today, I've been on facebook, gchat, two differeLast night, during a snowstorm, my husband and I watched Joaquin Phoenix emote his way through "Her." Today, I've been on facebook, gchat, two different fitness sites, my phone, and this site; all in an attempt to reach out to others for one piddling reason or another. My husband, who designs video games for a living, spent the snow day test-driving a new game.
So it was with excitement that I dug into "In Real Life," a graphic novel from First Second Books about a young teenage girl whose online gaming life takes on heightened meaning when she connects with a Chinese player across the globe, and effects social change through her screen.
The novel is well-drawn and colored, simple and emotional (just note the shades of a mother's frustration), and Anda's story unique. It is refreshing to see a girl who is not standard and yet not entirely bullied find a life of excitement and meaning in a virtual world. Any chance for girls to join together in a band of elves, gnomes, witchy women, and many other kinds of avatars is joyful and exiting to read. The plotline regarding Chinese working conditions is intriguing (although as others have noted, could certainly have been expended-- and though it is not this novel's focus, it would be great to see a graphic novel from that point of view).
The savior of the day is not Anda, her mentors, her parents, or her friends across the world-- the hero of this tale is the technology that empowers citizens across the world to unite and make change. And yet I could not give this novel five stars, since that ending comes so swiftly and easily. I suppose it's only fair, after lifetimes of warning signals against technology, to have literature that shows us the power of gaming to unite and inspire. But the book is so positive and well-wrapped up that there is no moral grey area-- no sense of a girl being in over her had within this game, no frustration that she is but one person in a vast game of thousands of morally ambiguous players. She truly is all-good and all-powerful. Good for her. May other gaming girls read this novel and make virtual reality a better, warmer place....more
This book is amazing. The story is organized as a progression of ideas (in the guise of an autobiographical novel, but, if you'll notice, the reader kThis book is amazing. The story is organized as a progression of ideas (in the guise of an autobiographical novel, but, if you'll notice, the reader knows every major plot point very early on) intertwining life events and great literature. As the best nonfiction does, the work continuously re-analzyes itself, and Allison acknowleges the deepest and least socially acceptable of her emotions. She guides us with a steady hand through what, for most of us, is completely uncharted territory-- both in the extraordinarily tragic emotional life of her family, and literature that most people will never read (at least not as a complete body of work).
One or two reviewers said that they did not think the drawings added much to the story-- I have to disagree. Watch the precision with which Allison draws the lines of her father's and mother's faces. Honestly, though, the pictoral highlight for me was her analysis of her childhood diary and the way she coded in her self-doubt. The emotional highlight of the book was, as she intended, the climax of her and her father in the car.
But my favorite aspect of the book was, as I mentioned, the way Allison steadily guides us through the parellels of her parents' life with certain writers and their work. She takes us into deeper and deeper places, using the literature as a way of making sense of things-- starting out with Fitzgerald and Gatsby, moving through Henry James, Proust, the trial of Oscar Wilde (a personal favorite, I admit), and finally landing softly down amidst the Odyssey and Ulysses. None if it feels pretentious. Allison uses our common reading history (and there are more accesible references to James and the Giant Peach, Catcher in the Rye, Winnie the Pooh) to filter the world: both to herself and to her lucky audience....more