Stephanie's Reviews > Level Up

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang
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's review
Oct 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: graphic-novels-and-comics, video-games
Read in October, 2011

Because it's a telling of one gamer's lifelong quest for personal acceptance despite the demands of higher education, adulthood, and familial obligations, the comic is a bit aimless. You just have to sit back and go with it, wherever it decides to take you. I was deciding whether to buy this book as a gift for someone when I read it, so I'm not the most reliable judge of its narrative stability---I was obsessed with figuring out whether the intended receiver of the book would enjoy it, since it would have a more personal attachment for him than the common reader.

Still, it won me over and I went to the register with the book in hand. Yes, it's largely about video games, but it's not as filled with nerdy references as would something like Scott Pilgrim. The story veers into more serious discussions and events, so it's more about life happening than it is about playing video games without shame or repercussions. This protagonist isn't the lovable slacker Scott Pilgrim, whose greatest accomplishment would forever be gaining an extra life and powers of awesome. This book is a little more real world, and the real world can suck.

That's not to say the book is dull or even uncomfortable. But it's more emotional than the usual comic about video game love would be. And by the end, it ties everything together not neatly and conveniently, but in a way that speaks to a lot of us. It's not about settling; it's about opening yourself to the best of both worlds and finding happiness with what's there in front of you, instead of trying to escape into a virtual world and running away from your problems in the real one. It's a solid read, but maybe not what most people would expect.

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