Jennifer's Reviews > Level Up

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang
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Jul 31, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: comics
Read on July 31, 2011

Dennis is the son of immigrant parents whose only true love in life is playing video games. After his father dies, his grades in college slip as he becomes obsessed with gaming. Then four angels arrive to help him realize his destiny: to become a great gastroentrologist.

First of all, I love the cover! The gaming artwork and references throughout the book really hold up and accent the story. Visually, the themes and plot come together beautifully. And expression in both body language and facial expression are conveyed with the best kind of economy. I really like how each level starts with a small square in the center of the page and how we see Dennis lose lives along the way. Sometimes, especially in the college years, it truly does seem like a series of game lives or do-overs until you find your right destiny. Hmmm, maybe all of life is like that, too.

As for the story itself, Yang once again captures the exact feelings of displacement, family confusion, and complexity that is life, not just during high school and college. Dennis is very likeable, even if he is sometimes a loser. He really seems to want to do what is best not just for himself, but also for his family, friends and society.

His friends are also characterized fully. Never do they, or his mom and dad, become stereotypes as they too often do in this kind of story. They say the wrong things at times, at points save Dennis, harp on him, joke with him, and lead him astray. But you always feel that they all genuinely care about him. This is most evident in his father. He could easily become the stereotypical first-generation immigrant parent: demanding, concerned only with school, pushing his child to become better than he was. And at first that is exactly what he appears to be. But by the end of the story, you realize that he is fully human and much, much more than an one-dimensional character.

Overall, I was quite pleased with this story and plan to recommend it to others.
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