Confession: I’m not a gamer. I liked a few computer games as a kid, but I never really played big online games or anything like that. So when I saw InConfession: I’m not a gamer. I liked a few computer games as a kid, but I never really played big online games or anything like that. So when I saw In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang I had to think hard about requesting it. But the cover was so fantastic and the description sounded not only unique but also so socially apt that I had to try it.
Additionally it is published by First Second and I have heard only good things about their publications!
Well, I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels in my life (Asterix counts, right?), and I’m so glad that this was one of them.
In short, Anda is a bit of an awkward, seemingly unhappy teenager in a new town, who gets introduced to the world of Massive Multiplayer Online Games, where she joins an all-female guild and becomes known as a kick-ass player. But she also encounters “gold farmers”, a very real occurrence in MMOs. It becomes her mission to “kill” gold farmers, until she befriends one gold farmer from China and realises that most of them are playing long hours just to make a living.
Essentially Anda is introduced to real world problems by means of the fantasy game. And because Anda is sweet and wonderful she tries to do something about her new friend’s difficulties. I also need to mention that Anda is such an amazing character. I love that she is drawn a little chubby. She's real!
I won’t say much more in an effort to avoid spoilers, but suffice to say this graphic novel not only addresses the importance of action and the internet in modern-day activism, but also the danger of the activists overstepping boundaries by assuming that they know what is best for their “causes”.
I spoke to The Boy, who used to play MMOs a lot, about this and he confirmed the general dislike of gold farmers. When asked whether he ever considered it possible that gold farmers were being exploited, his economically-orientated mind immediately set to work, and we had one of our most enlightening discussions yet.
As for the book itself: I loved the artwork. I thought the characters were drawn beautifully. I loved the crisp nature and the colour schemes and the characterisation. The relationships between different characters were tangible. I loved the creativity in the MMO scenes. I found the dialogue to be genuine and appealing – facetious dialogue has been a real problem for me in graphic novels before.
Additionally, Cory Doctorow has a fantastic introduction to the novel, which elaborates upon the intersection of gaming and economics, and gives the novel that extra boost. I love this. Not only did it elevate the worth of the internet in social change, but it also elevates the graphic novel in that same regard.
This book could be analysed to pieces for numerous classes at either high school or university level - it really is that multi-layered. I know that there are aspects that annoyed others and other aspects that have more depth than I have mentioned. But for now, all I want do think of is how much I loved it.
"Every wonderful thing in our world had a fight in its history: our rights, our happiness. All that is sweet is paid for, once upon a time, by principled people who risked everything to change the world for the better."
-In Real Life
I received an eARC of this book via NetGalley and the Publishers in exchange for an honest review....more
In the near future, Britain is overpopulated and poverty is at an all-time high. Parliament has drafted the “No More Children In Need Programme” to reIn the near future, Britain is overpopulated and poverty is at an all-time high. Parliament has drafted the “No More Children In Need Programme” to reduce the population and so to reduce poverty and tax expenditure. But the program is colloquially known by a much more descriptive name: The Snip Bill. The program will sterilise all young people who are not guaranteed a job, university placement or another form of financial support.
AND THE YOUTH RIOT.
I have so many feelings about this book. For one, its setting: I feel like I’ve read so little good YA set in Britain - but this one is grimy and action-packed and the setting is unlike any other that I have read. And, oh, I love it.
For another, the story is a great idea – not the least because it is an idea that many people have considered, albeit perhaps not in real-life Britain. You might recall that the South African Apartheid government had its own programme researching mass-sterilisation, as did Hitler’s Nazi Germany. And today, with many suffering countries experiencing continuously booming populations, “birth control” is the buzzword of the century.
I felt that the plot was well-devised and thrilling. There are some slow moments, but hardly enough to make me consider putting the book down. And frankly, I think a well-placed slow moment can do wonders for a novel.
Mussi’s manner of writing fits the story perfectly. She is not verbose. Sometimes I felt it was a bit too brief, but in a way, it works. You can hear the thousands of feet marching. You can smell the acrid smoke burning.
This book would do really well in a class discussion with high school kids. Although it appears that there are clear-cut good guys and bad guys, there is enough grey area for fascinating discussion. For example, just because nobody should be sterilised without consent, what can we do about the trend of the rich’s taxes funding the subsidies of the poor? Obviously there is a big discussion to be had in this regard, because often the poor are poor because they are exploited, but that is a discussion for another post.
Things I did not enjoy so much do unfortunately come into play. I could not always gel with Tia’s character. She is a bit labile – but then, I suppose, that is the way teenagers are! One moment wise beyond their years, another moment the most childish brat.
The biggest turn-off for me was the relationship between Tia and her man-candy. It’s not exactly insta-love, but it comes pretty close to being insta-love. And then there’s that thing where they are fleeing for their lives, and they stop to make out. I’m sure the younger audience will love reading that, but for me… it’s unrealistic even for fiction. If a mad man is chasing you, you should run for your life, yo!
I wasn’t so sure about using Anonymous slogans as chapter headings – those slogans are AWESOME, but are they not copyrighted, or something? I thought it was a good way of making the whole thing more real though: including this element of our current lives.
Mussi also weaves a lot of revolutionary history into the novel, even equating Tia’s father, the villain, with Joseph Goebbels. Again, I love this real-world element to the novel.
This book is bigger than dystopian fiction. It has the potential to be like Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It is more than a book about riots – it is a book about anarchy, and my only criticism in this regard is that such a heavy topic perhaps deserved better conclusions. When you read this book, you will find yourself in one second becoming an anarchist yourself, and in the next second crying out that anarchy is a very, very bad idea. Mussi does not prescribe a viewpoint, which is good, but there is certainly room for further discussion. Perhaps the publishers could consider a "reader's guide" for questions and discussions.
Many readers have a problem with the ending - I can't say I'm thrilled by it either, but it certainly isn't the most important part of this book, and so, I can live with that.
I strongly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys dystopians, computer geekery, and socio-political activism. And teenagers – especially the ones that get angry at the System (I do, too). Somebody in some school library is going to try to ban this book, and that will be testament to its importance.
One last thing: I think this cover is awesome.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Finally done! This book took me forever to read (not because it's boring, but because school has been keeping me too busy). I really enjoyed this book,Finally done! This book took me forever to read (not because it's boring, but because school has been keeping me too busy). I really enjoyed this book, it was definitely on par with the rest of the series. Van de Ruit has a gift for portraying the soul of the young boy - I even got annoyed with the way they ostracised poor Garlic, considering his kindness. It's amazing how Spud grows and develops, and I got goosebumps at the end of the book. Definitely a book I recommend. Now I need to find Van de Ruit somewhere so he can sign my copies!...more
About a year ago, I read about Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the Southern United States. There is a movie about her, which I couldn’t source, but I remember thinking what a fantastic story it would be to read.
Recently, I had the opportunity to read just such a story, except this one is set in a high school, and is fictional (but historically accurate).
Lies We Tell Ourselves is the story of ten black students who are the first to attend a top-notch all-white school in Virginia. It starts on their first day at the new school, being taunted and spat at and not at all very well-protected by their police escort.
But it is also the story of one white girl at the school, whose father is one of their community’s staunchest supporters of segregation. This girl, Linda, is set against integration, but circumstance forces her to work with Sarah (our other narrator), and predictable they bump heads… a lot.
This novel focuses on issues of racism as well as LGBTQ issues, with your everyday high school politics, women’s lib issues and parental strife thrown in the mix.
Initially I felt a bit dubious about the LGBTQ aspect of the story, because it felt like there was a whole lot of “tokening” going on, but on second thought, why SHOULDN’T this be historically accurate? And by all accounts, homophobia was as big of an issue in those days. It also serves as quite a good juxtaposition, as both integration and homosexuality are considered unnatural and un-Christian by many people.
There was something about this book – and not just the subject-matter – that made me struggle to put it down. The tone and character-building was spot-on. There was nothing superfluous about the dialogue. It was as genuine as I could possibly imagine.
The growth of the characters happens so subtly that it, too, is more realistic. The changes occur over time, rather than magically in a second.
Obviously, there are very disturbing things that take place in these pages. I feel that Robin Talley did a great job of describing them with candor and sensitivity, which is no mean feat. She makes them striking to read without disrespecting the reality of these events.
For readers: prepare yourself for a good dose of nausea and guilt, no matter who you are or where you are from. Prepare yourself for a good deal of internal debate. That is part of what makes this such a fantastic example of YA.
I was wary of the dual point-of-views, but it worked wonderfully. Initially I villainised Linda, but the wonderful thing is that my empathy for her grew too. I was a little shocked by the change of POV in the epilogue, but it is very symbolic of the continued battle against discrimination.
My wish would be that this book would be studied in high schools. While To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favourite books about racial equality, I think this one may be more relatable for high school students and would be great if read in conjunction with TKAM. I don’t think at that young age one always realizes how complicit you can be in some issues.
While reading this I kind of wished a South African would write something like this about when schools began to integrate here. I know it’s touched on in a few books like Spud by John van de Ruit, but I think it would be so good for our younger generations to understand what it was like in their own country.
“For all we know they trade in those badges for white sheets at night.”
Although to some extent the story is a bit predictable, that doesn’t diminish it. Nearer the end there were two moments that gave me a sudden attack of the goosebumps. Great work – and one of my favourite reads for the year!
“Someday, the history books will write about what’s happening to us right now. What do you want them to say about you? That you did nothing while history was happening all around you? Or do you want them to say you stood up for your beliefs, for your culture, for your state?”
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book via the publisher (Harlequin Teen) and NetGalley. This has not biased my review....more
I’ve been trying to review this book for more than a week and I’m no closer to the wonderful review it deserves. I’m kind of at a loss for words, whicI’ve been trying to review this book for more than a week and I’m no closer to the wonderful review it deserves. I’m kind of at a loss for words, which is reasonably unusual for me.
I suppose the first thing is that I’m not all that into books set in space and I’ve had a bit of an overdose of dystopians, yet this combination of the two was really kind of magical.
For the beginning of the book, Brown does the whole “show, don’t tell” thing very well. I thought that it got a bit screwy after the Passage though, which was unfortunate. In fact, the middle third of the book, right after the Passage, was probably my least favourite bit. It was more a stream of consciousness than anything else, and a WHOLE LOT of telling, and I very nearly gave up on it. But I didn’t! Because I knew the tide would change.
The main character? WOW. Darrow is… not the most likable character. He kind of annoyed me, and I’m not sure why. He’s awesome and stoic and a rebel and takes these stupid risks and often times he just lacks AGENCY, but even though I didn’t feel any AFFECTION for him per se, he was a PERFECT character for this book. The story is made for him, and he makes the story, and although I may not LIKE him, his creation is a work of art.
Just so you know, this is the kind of book that is going to hurt you. It is going to hurt your favourite characters and it is going to nauseate you with its gruesomeness but it is also going to have you cheering and flailing and getting SO DAMN HYPED UP. It’s quite fantastic, really.
I feel like there’s an element of predictability in the novel (because we know it is a trilogy), but it has twists of unpredictability that has you gasping for air, and that’s pretty exciting. The end, you know. Even though part of it was predictable, another part of it was like, “OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING” and that means I absolutely need to read the other books in the trilogy.
I do worry about it, though. With this kind of dystopian that can become quite didactic about modern times and the democracy-socialism struggle, it runs the risk of becoming too political or just a big mess. But in my humble opinion, Pierce Brown seems to be quite a capable author, so I’m just going to entrust him with this tiny bit of my heart. ...more
Lauren Beukes is pretty much on my auto-buy list (I mean, if I had the means to have an auto-buy list)FULL REVIEW WITH PICTURES AND QUOTES ON MY BLOG.
Lauren Beukes is pretty much on my auto-buy list (I mean, if I had the means to have an auto-buy list). I own most of her books, including her out-of-print Maverick, and Broken Monsters will soon be added.
Granted, I first read Beukes’ Zoo City (my review) because she is a great South African author and because her South African fiction is just out of this world. But just as she crosses the boundaries of genres and mashes together concepts that other authors can’t successfully do, she is crossing the boundaries of description.
The Shining Girls and now Broken Monsters have proven her mettle as a writer. They say “write what you know” – Beukes is from neither Chicago nor Detroit, but in both cases she did her research so well that the places became tangible. Her twitter followers are also pretty familiar with her escapades to the settings of her books – I seem to remember her once tweeting about shadowing a Detroit undertaker for a day. (This BookD podcast with Beukes is totally worth the listen – do it!)
As for the story: I’ll admit that I was unsure at first that I would read it. As I repeatedly say, I’m a major scaredy-cat. Anyway, I read it. After the description of the first victim – right at the beginning of the book – I was a little spooked. I decided then that I would only read the book in the daylight. (That helped.) But then, the book is not really thaaaaaat scary. It is touted as a thriller, but the killer is revealed pretty early on in the plot (and it is done purposefully).
So what you should know about Broken Monsters is that you cannot take it at face value. Beukes is a genius, and everything she writes about has a purpose – and the purpose is not confined to “being thrilling”. As fantastic as her writing is – honest, tangible, raw – it is also a commentary. Commentary on technology, on art and artists, on the evil that can grow from our dreams. Commentary on the power an audience gives to a creation – a hope, a desire.
The disturbing imagery is not confined to bodies (but I will leave you to discover that yourself). Despite that – or perhaps because of it – I think this would be a fantastic book to discuss in an undergrad class. I feel the need to read this again, with guidance from and discussion with other readers. It is incredible reading it for “just reading”, but I get the feeling there is even more waiting beneath the surface.
Of course, I should warn that it might upset sensitive readers – but you’ll know from the full blurb whether you can handle it. What I appreciate is that Beukes approaches the gruesomeness with a lot of respect. You don’t get the sense of some kind of macabre pleasure that one sometimes sees in horror/thriller type books. As somebody who has lost loved ones to violence, that distinction means a lot.
Like many of Beukes’ books, Broken Monsters is told in multiple POVs. Not first-person POVs though, and this “deviation” gives it a distinct atmosphere. The characterisation is great, so there is no confusion, but I must admit that I didn’t feel as attracted to these characters as in previous books. Of course, it is a myth that a good character must be a likable one!
As for the covers… I feel kind of meh about the USA and UK covers. The SA cover (up top) is the best of the lot for me – detailed and artsy and me likey.
Overall, I found this to be a gripping and disturbing read – for more reasons than the obvious.
I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley and Mulholland Books in exchange for an honest review. This has not biased my review....more
Reading through some of the reviews for this book has really annoyed me. I can appreciate a well-thought through negative review even if the opinionsReading through some of the reviews for this book has really annoyed me. I can appreciate a well-thought through negative review even if the opinions differ from my own, but these just display an incredibly ignorant readership.
We Need New Names is not supposed to be a sweet little story with happy characters and happy endings. It has been a long time since I have read anything this REAL. So what if you don't like Darling or Aunt Fostalina? How many people in real life are truly likable, in any case.
This is not a made up little story. The characters might be fictional but nothing in this book is a lie. It is not a story that follows a nice meandering road and if that is what you want in a book, then this is not what you should be reading. More than a concrete novel, this book is a collection of stories, with a hint of stream-of-consciousness.
You won't be spoon-fed what happens. So maybe you'll need to read up a little about what exactly happened in Zimbabwe. Is that such a trainsmash? This book is not written to explain a sequence of events that is easily accessible on the internet.
And put your pride in your pockets about Darling's "disdain" for America. So WHAT? Should people start pooping rainbows just because they get to live in America? It doesn't matter how perfect the country is, it is not home, and until you have been removed from the country of your blood, you will not understand how it is possible to long for a place so marred with poverty and violence.
Truly, if you are not willing to have your mind opened, don't read this book.
(This review brought to you by the effort not to spew negativity on other people's reviews.)...more