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In Real Life

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Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.

From acclaimed teen author (Little Brother, For the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.

175 pages, Paperback

First published October 14, 2014

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About the author

Cory Doctorow

243 books4,932 followers
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of the YA graphic novel In Real Life, the nonfiction business book Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free, and young adult novels like Homeland, Pirate Cinema, and Little Brother and novels for adults like Rapture Of The Nerds and Makers. He is a Fellow for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in Los Angeles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,351 reviews
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
March 1, 2017
I loved the art style, but the story didn't wow me as much as I was expecting.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,005 followers
September 12, 2014
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In Real Life, this new graphic novel written by Cory Doctorow with art by Jen Wang is full of them. In its heartfelt introduction, Cory Doctorow says that In Real Life is about game and economics, about the – political, economical, social – choices that we make on a daily basis and their consequences. About how social media and the Internet can potentially shape and change the world.

The book portrays how Anda – the shy and lonely main character trying to fit in at her new school – starts playing Coarsegold Online, a MMRPG (for the non-initiated: massively-multiplayer role playing game) and gets involved with the real-life consequences of playing it.

There are, I think, three aspects of the novel worth exploring. First of all, the clear and welcomed feminist message of the book. Anda starts playing it after a school visit by one of the game’s organisers who talks about the rise of female gamers, the problems encountered by them (sexism, misogyny) ending with a call-to-arms in which girls are specifically invited to play with female avatars.* The idea is that Coarsegold Online provides a welcoming and safe environment in which to do so. The story then follows Anda as she becomes more confident and develops relationships with other female gamers as well as other girls at her own school. This part of the book? Wonderful.

Also great: Anda’s journey toward self-awareness and a larger comprehension about the complicated world at large. Whilst gaming, she becomes involved with Gold Farming. In the book, she befriends two other characters: one of them co-opts Anda into killing in-game gold famers (an illegal practice within the game); the other is a gold farmer himself, who turns out to be a poor kid from China, working in extremely poor conditions in a gold farming factory. This prompts Anda into realising the consequences of what she does on her side of the Atlantic, how it impacts other people then eventually spiralling into political activism. Whilst I appreciated very much Anda’s personal journey of self-awareness, I have serious misgivings about how this is actually dealt with in the book, which brings me to the third aspect of the novel I’d like to expand on – the one that made me angry and a little bit horrified.

Now, Gold Farming is a real-life economic phenomenon in which players (often located at third world countries) can collect in-game valuable objects to sell them to other players (often in first world countries) for real money. This has rippling effects within gaming – leading to extreme prejudice against non-English speaking players as well as outside gaming: it has been reported that Gold Farming has become not only a lucrative business but one that usually involves extremely poor working conditions and exploitation of underprivileged workers.

Needless to say, this is an extremely complex topic and I find it that depicting and addressing it with any real depth would have been difficult to start with in any scenario, but within a short graphic novel with less than 200 pages and exclusively from the perspective of a privileged American character? Probably not the best idea ever.

This is how this plays out in In Real Life:

Anda befriends Raymond – a 16-year-old Chinese kid who barely speaks English and works at a gold farming factory. Cue to a clumsy dialogue in which Raymond tells Anda everything about his terrible circumstances: he works the night shift for 12 hours every night because his family doesn’t have money to send him to college (the alternative would be to work at a zipper factory, which is worse). He hurt his back lifting boxes at his previous job and since the gold farming factory doesn’t offer medical insurance, he sometimes have to excuse himself to go to the bathroom so he can lie on the floor a little while and rest – he has a friend who has good hands and offers massages in exchange for cigarettes.


Not Raymond’s, Anda’s. It’s her duty to protect him, so she will do everything to save him from his terrible life, to his eternal gratitude. And despite being a young kid herself and knowing nothing of the world or Raymond’s real circumstances, she decides to research. So SHE finds about local doctors he could go to and tell him to go to his coworkers and tell everyone they need to demand health care together or they will go on strike. This leads to Raymond getting fired.


Not Raymond’s, Anda’s. Anda lying in her comfortable bed saying how the world is a cruel place. How it was HER FAULT FOR MAKING HIM BELIEVE THINGS WOULD BE OK.

She then decides to get up and do more. She puts together a team of other privileged players, then:

“I don’t know what is like to live in China and I don’t know what’s like to be a gold farmer but I do know what’s like to a kid who loves video games. If you would give me a chance, I will do anything to help you get him back. If you really care about him, you will help me spread this message”.

The message is something she wrote, a call to action to other Chinese workers so they CAN FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS. Which they do. And everything is ok in the world and Anda is HAILED as the hero who stands up for what is right.

In the end, Raymond comes back. With a brand new Avatar, looking like prince charming, speaking almost perfect English, saying how things are better at his old job and how he was offered a new, better job by a random guy at an Internet café. The end. Everything is ok now.


I understand the author’s intentions and completely sympathise with and admire them. I think there is a lot that is worth of praise here including the beautiful artwork by Jen Wang. However, as explored above, I don’t think those intentions were communicated well into the book. I felt utterly uncomfortable (to put it very mildly) about the depiction of the Chinese characters’ plight and the lack of viewpoint from their perspective – the stress on Anda’s feelings rather than Raymond’s about his own situation is problematic to the extreme and reeks, REEKS of white saviour complex and American superiority (cue me rolling my eyes when Anda was all horrified at the lack of proper health insurance in China when in America things are not exactly rainbows and ponies, are they.) In addition, this extremely complex situation has been simplified to the extreme with the throwaway ending.

*Fucked-up fact about the world we live in: Cory Doctorow can write anything and criticise male gamers all he wants and he will probably get little to no flack for it. Meanwhile, Anita Sarkeesian puts forth the same message and criticisms and is attacked, humiliated and threatened ↩
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.1k followers
July 20, 2015
THIS BOOK HAD ME SHOUTING OUT LOUD! Such a riot! While reading I couldn't contain my gasps and moments of shock. The drawings were absolutely beautiful, and I love how much they changed from page to page - it wasn't just square strip after square strip - and I loved the colour palette. And the story! It was fantastic! It brought a very interesting social issue into what could have remained a very light hearted read. PLUS FEMINIST UNDERTONES.

Much recommended.
Profile Image for Natalie.
567 reviews3,196 followers
June 5, 2020

In Real Life is the story of Anda, a teenaged girl who is inspired by a speaker at her school to become active in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Coarsegold.


In the course of trying to establish her role in a women-only guild called Clan Fahrenheit, Anda —in her online guise of Kali Destroyer— begins taking paying jobs wiping out "gold farmers," overseas minimum-wage workers who harvest in-game product and sell it to novice gamers for real-world money.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn.


In Real Life was a kick-ass graphic novel with beautiful illustrations that captured the mood of the story perfectly.

And, as always, I decided to feature some of my favorites here:







Overall, this was a great way to pass a hot summery day with a terrific cast of gamers—my only complaint being that the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly for me. But other than that, I enjoyed my time in Anda's life.

*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying In Real Life, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!*

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 64 books233k followers
December 8, 2014
A cool graphic novel that touches on subjects that a lot of people probably don't think about. The internal economy of the online games we play. How different cultures interact in these games.

A fun read, light and pleasant, and hopeful. It's nice to read something hopeful every once in a while...
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,725 reviews103 followers
April 3, 2017
I got this book via Net Galley and my feelings on it are very mixed, but lean towards the negative.

- The art is really good, particularly at making the main character Anda's avatar show emotions with her face
- It's about a girl gamer which is awesome and is in the context of encouraging more girl gamers
- And it's a chubby girl!

- Fundamentally this is a book about how white people who try to play 'savior' to people of color when they don't know anything about the culture in question..... that ends when the white person is able to play savior to the people of color. I feel like the take home message was extremely mixed. In the interest of giving the story a happy ending, the authors end up undermining the entire message they were trying to make. In reality Anda probably would have never seen Raymond again.
- I was also a bit uncomfortable by the way the Chinese gold harvesters were shown with these generic and creepy avatars that made them all look alike. I don't know anything about gold harvesting in MMORGs but any time I see people of color shown in a way so they are generic and interchangeable, it raises my hackles.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,065 reviews1,904 followers
February 21, 2016
Most of the people you see going to work today are LARPing an incredibly boring RPG called "professionalism" that requires them to alter their vocabulary, posture, eating habits, facial expressions - every detail all the way down to what they allow themselves to find funny.

Okay, this ostensibly a graphic novel about a girl (high school) who plays a MMORPG called Coarsegold.

But in reality is a lecture about poverty in China and the economic and class differences between middle-class American teens and impoverished Chinese teens who have no workers' rights or health care.

I was rather disappointed. I was hoping for more plot and less lecture, and instead this was heavy on lecture and rather light on plot.


- Chubby female heroine. Shown as natural, respected, without self-esteem issues or any kind of weight-related weirdness. Probably the best and most life-affirming thing is seeing her kneeling over the tub with her shirt off in order to dye her hair red. It's amazing and world-changing to see fat girls and fat women portrayed in this kind of normal, everyday, things-are-okay kind of way without it being The Fat Best Friend, The Goofy Sidekick, or The Girl Who No One Loves and Feels Like Trash About Her Size. Instead, Doctorow is offering us a completely normal and un-self-conscious MC who is going about her normal life, unconcerned with I Am Fat, I Hate Myself, Why Do No Boys Love Me? or some shit. A+

- Excellent art, drawings, and great understanding of not only MMORPGs but of high school and interpersonal relationships within family and without.


- It's simply a lecture. A call to action, a "learning tool," a device to promote activism and call attention to the plight of teens who are forced to work from a young age in countries where there's no such thing as health insurance or workers' rights.

While I think that this is a noble and important cause to call attention to, it doesn't really make for great fiction, instead coming off as a PSA. The author has a clear agenda and doesn't even make an attempt to hide it. *shrug* This just kills my interest in the book.

A much, much better book that dealt with some of these same issues but was super-subtle as well as incredibly entertaining was Neal Stephenson's Reamde, an AMAZING knock-your-socks off novel that also dealt with stuff like the issues of MMORPG and the differences between Americans, Chinese and Russians when it comes to governments and human rights. I'd highly recommend it to anyone on earth.

I can't say the same about this.

Tl;dr - Well constructed graphic novel with an obvious and overwhelming "message" about human rights. Might be of interest to teenagers who play MMORPGs, however no one is going to read this and NOT feel preached to... Doctorow is just coming on too strong here. I appreciate what he's trying to do, but this doesn't make good fiction.
Profile Image for Jan Philipzig.
Author 1 book267 followers
August 15, 2016
Targeted at young teens (I think), this graphic novel makes the valid point that the real lives of many online role-playing gamers around the world are far from glamorous. Unfortunately, it drops the ball on all the related issues it initially seems to raise: Is there some kind of link between the privileges we enjoy and the repression/exploitation experienced in other parts of the world? Is it okay for marketers to promote games in schools? What about our game's tendency to celebrate violence and promote capitalism? Have the problems of sexism and racism in games really been solved when the white avatar of our white female protagonist dances with the white avatar of a male Chinese gamer in the end? I'm all for fostering critical thinking and political awareness, but I doubt the book's "gaming is awesome as long as you are aware that there are people out there who aren't as fortunate as we are"-conclusion will actually have that effect.
Profile Image for Samantha.
440 reviews16.8k followers
April 24, 2016
First off, I loved the art style in In Real Life. Art style is just as important to me as the plot when it comes to graphic novels, so I'm glad it didn't disappoint. It matches the cover, so it is a very cute, simple art style that is very easy to get into. That being said, what you see is what you get. It's not very complicated. I prefer my graphic novels to be a little more complex where I have to pay a bit more attention to the frames and with this one, you can skim most of them.

As far as the plot, I enjoyed the story. As a fan of video games myself, it was fun to see and I knew about some of the topics that were brought up in the book and the issues that arose. With that being said, I found the story rather predictable. I also found it to be shorter than I expected. I would have loved for it to be a bit longer and to see the characters develop more. They ended up being one dimensional.

Overall, I liked this graphic novel. It was cute, fun, and light. It is a nice break between heavier reads. I would recommend it to any video game fans or anyone who is looking to get into graphic novels and wants something light to start out with.This review was originally posted on Thoughts on Tomes
Profile Image for Calista.
4,068 reviews31.3k followers
July 28, 2018
This is not a perfect story, still, I had a lot of fun reading it. I thought the art was fantastic. The online world vs real world has been done before. I did like the take that Cory takes on it. The whole thing is a little silly. You can very much connect on a virtual level, but it can't replace human touch and contact and being with a person. Our character, Anda, still meets someone across the world that she would never be able to meet in person and learns about a whole new life. That has worth and use too.

I've never done the gaming thing, so I don't know that world. I struggle to keep up with the real world as it is, I certainly don't need another one to keep up with. The window into that strange world is interesting. It's a great storytelling device.
Profile Image for Kristina Horner.
157 reviews1,822 followers
February 25, 2015
I loved this book! I was drawn to it simply because of that gorgeous cover, but the story itself was surprisingly poignant and sweet. The main character was such a complex, kickass girl and the fact that a "book about gaming" tackled such important topics and bullying and health-care needs was a refreshing change of pace in a world where society's perception of gaming is still so full of misunderstanding and judgement.

I wish it was longer! I wish I could play Coursegold Online! Highly recommended to anyone who loves games or wants to be incredibly impressed with the depth of a graphic novel.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,541 reviews12.9k followers
August 16, 2016
Being a teen is restrictive but for Anda, when she logs into Coarsegold, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), she’s free as her avatar. And then she meets Raymond, a player her age from China, and her world, online and offline, changes.

Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s In Real Life is an enjoyable and compelling comic that cleverly highlights the differences between Eastern and Western childhoods, as well as their similarities, through online gaming.

Coarsegold for Anda is partly a way of building self-esteem and earning some extra pocket money on the side (which she doesn’t need as her parents are well off), but it’s mostly entertainment for her. Raymond in China has to work in this online world to make money to send home to his family - it’s this or working in a zipper factory, and he has to fit hours of work in between his schooling. He’s already got back problems that he can’t get medical help for.

It’s a sobering reflection of global economics and the disparity between prosperous America and hardscrabble China, as well as showing Anda growing as a character through her developing social conscience. Doctorow offers a naive and questionable solution but the story’s strength is in showing readers, particularly teens like Anda, their relation to the wider world and awaken empathy to disadvantaged others’ plights. On the flip-side, it shows Chinese kids ways they could possibly achieve a better life.

There’s a couple of critiques here like how weird it was to have a games developer show up at a school to flog their game to students - do schools really allow that? And the ending is a little too pat - workers demanding rights in tyrannical China wouldn’t go as smoothly for Raymond and his friends in real life! Though maybe the intent is to foster optimism and the possibilities of change in the reader rather than allow reality a too dominant presence. After all, reality can be - and has been - changed many times before, so why not now? And the book ends sweetly, celebrating the simple similarities children the world over share: friends and dancing.

Jen Wang’s art is evocative, energetic and imaginative, showing a familiarity with the kinds of worlds games developers create with their MMORPGs while creating a convincing one of her own here. The character designs are very cool, especially in showing how the online avatars differ from the real world people - I liked that Anda was a chubby girl which you don’t often see in comics protagonists.

Like a lot of First Second comics In Real Life is aimed at the high school crowd but as a grown-up (in theory), I still really enjoyed this. Doctorow’s writing and characterisation is both powerful and enthralling and I flew through the book in a single sitting. I applaud Doctorow for writing an engaging story with a strong positive political spirit. In Real Life has a heart and a brain - recommended to all fans of quality comics!
Profile Image for nitya.
385 reviews277 followers
November 14, 2020
3.5 because I adore Jen Wang's style too much 🥺😭

While I am not a gamer, it was really refreshing to see a teenage girl interested in Dungeons and Dragons, guilds, and everything dominated by neckbeards. Yes, girls can be geeks AND super badass, it's not impossible or out of the ordinary! And the commentary on capitalism and its pitfalls is A+++.

I saw that this was adapted from a short story by Doctorow. BRB hunting that down!

Content warning: video/computer game typical violence (explosions, animal death and dismemberment), bullying (it's more of a theme than anything), white savior trope, some fatphobia
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,743 reviews5,283 followers
January 12, 2019
If you're a gamer, you definitely have to check out In Real Life, but I think it would be a great read for people with no gaming experience, too! While it does take place partially within the game, and involves a lot of MMORPG action, there's not a lot of "insider" jargon to ruin the experience for someone who hasn't played a game like 'Coarsegold Online' before. At its core, it's more of a story about learning to recognize our privileges and empathize with people who have it worse off than us, as well as recognizing bullying and how to stand up and fight it.

There's also some lovely diverse rep in this graphic novel, with a fat protagonist and some great POC rep scattered throughout. I highly recommend giving In Real Life a try if you enjoy contemporary graphic novels or stories about gamers and video games!
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,332 reviews343 followers
January 9, 2015
I probably should have liked this more than I actually did. I am a gamer, even if I don't play MMOs. I do appreciate Doctorow for pointing out how intimidating it can be to be female online. But that's basically abandoned as a storyline almost immediately. I'm happy he addressed it (though it's obviously much safer for him, as a man, to mention the issue than it would be for a woman) but it's just kind of mentioned once or twice then forgotten about. The book isn't about that, but I sort of wish it was.

Instead, it's about gold farming. These gold farmers are downtrodden Chinese sweatshop gold farmers. Who need a teenage, white, American girl to inspire them to unionize. Through an online translator. Ok. That did kind of rub me the wrong way. We never really get to see all that much of any of the Chinese characters, which was another disappointment.

But Anda herself is such a genuine, nice girl, and a joy to read about. Better yet, her parents are loving, supportive, and engaged in her life. I get so sick of absentee parents in YA, and it's nice to see good parents who are trying and who have children who respect them.

This is a very quick read, and it goes down easily. The characters are appealing, and Doctorow's heart is in the right place. I think he could have done better, but he did pretty good.
Profile Image for kate.
1,223 reviews948 followers
November 30, 2016
3.5* First of all, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED the artwork in this. It's beautifully drawn and the colours are gorgeous. It's definitely one of the prettiest, most aesthetically pleasing graphic novels I've read.

I also really liked the fact that Anda wasn't the classic, model figured character I've often seen in graphic novels. It was nice that the characters were all different shapes and sizes! I enjoyed the feminist aspect to it, although I do wish that had been a little more prominent as I felt it was a bit lost after the beginning!

In Real Life had a really interesting, underlying message on social issues. It wasn't what I was expecting at all but not in a negative way! Although I did feel as though the story wasn't fleshed out quite enough, everything seemed to happen a little too quickly and conveniently! I think I may have possibly enjoyed this a little more if I were a gamer, as know nothing about that world or culture but it was really interesting to read about!
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews560 followers
Shelved as 'first-second-publications'
October 16, 2014
With all the kerfuffle going on in gaming circles right now about the inclusion of women in video games, I'm so glad that Cory and Jen have created this book with a girl main character who loves and plays video games.

More than that, I'm glad that this is a story where the fact that Anda is a girl never comes into question. Of course she's a girl. Of course she loves video games. Of course they're important to her in both her online and offline lives, and influence how she thinks about life in general.

Yay that!

Profile Image for Patricia Bejarano Martín.
440 reviews5,545 followers
March 30, 2020
He amado el dibujo muchísimo. Es el motivo por el que decidí leerlo, porque era de la maravillosa jen Wang.
La historia ha estado guay, se me ha hecho corta pero la he disfrutado y me ha recordado muchas veces a mi época de jugadora de MMO. Y además, la enseñanza que te deja es maravillosa. Pero no he podido darle más nota porque me ha faltado profundización en algunas cositas y eso, muy corto.
Pero lo recomiendo mucho.
Profile Image for Lisa.
148 reviews10 followers
August 4, 2018
A digital ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

tl;dr: Teenage Anda is a girl gamer who gets caught up in Coarsegold, her favorite MMO, where she feels invincible, powerful, and wanted — until she meets Raymond, a poor Chinese teen who also loves Corasegold, and discovers things are not all that they seem. Raymond, it turns out, works illegally within the game to make money on the outside to survive. Lines between right and wrong get blurred pretty quick while Anda balances what she thinks can be done and what the reality actually is. The graphic novel is supposed to address class, ethnicity, and gender struggles within a 196 page format and do it well.

It fails. Horribly, horribly fails.

(By the by, as a book with massive subtext about the wrongs of Chinese factory workers, isn’t it just HILARIOUS the graphic novel itself is being printed in China?)

Review: Our story begins on the morning of Anda’s birthday, where our attention is drawn to that Anda’s family have recently moved to a new city and Anda is the new kid in school. She’s looking for a place to fit in, hence why later she gets so into online gaming. One would think as this is addressed in the beginning, the theme of “belonging” would be central to the story, but surprise! It’s not.

(Interestingly, since this was the setup, imagine the surprise to find Anda hanging out with the geek kids playing D&D during lunch times and after school. Either she’s a loner or she’s not. You need to make up your mind.)

Later that same day in one of Anda’s classes, a random speaker shows up whose sole purpose is to recruit people for MMOs. Now I have questions: Why is Liza the Organiza invited to speak to a high school class? What’s her purpose here? Since when do MMO organizers go to classrooms to recruit players? Especially ones under age who do no thave access to credit card accounts to pay for such things. The only connections why this wouldn’t be weird is a few panels back shows Anda programming in Python — so I guess this is one of her computer classes having a random speaker show up for class? I guess?

The Liza the Organiza starts her organizing — she wants to know how many of the girls in the class game and then how many of them game as girls? Which of course, none of the aforementioned girls who raised their hands in admittance of gaming, raise their hands to admit they game as girls. We already know the long, long history of what happens to girls who game as themselves in the gaming world. So Liza the Organiza puts to them a special deal: Come to this MMO she is a part of, game as a girl avatar, and after a three month trial, you can be part of her EREET SPECIAL GIRL FORCES. FUCK YEAH, BOOBS!

Just so we’re clear: You’re going to entice teenage girls who do not feel safe in general in this online space, but they should put themselves in danger ANYWAY so they can join your guild, without addressing any kind of safe space for them? Are you joking?

And this ends the entirety of the discussion of women in gaming and gender disparity in the gaming world in In Real Life.

(And I’m only up to page 26. Between the front matter, Mr. Doctorow’s 6 pageish ramble on the economics of gaming (which he also was thoughtful to discuss what MMO and other acronyms meant), the graphic novel didn’t start until page 16.)

Anda gets into the game, gets bedazzled by the popularity she receives within the MMO world and then meets Raymond. The storyline limps along, dragging the reader to point out white people should stop being saviors to all the other non-white folk because you know, we keep fucking their world up.

The ending, with all the faux tension being built, was kind of anticlimactic. Like, yay? And oh yeah, Liza reappears again for some strange reason to grant her approval on how things turned out. Liza, you were a pointless character. You should have been axed.

In addition to the massive problems with the storyline, apparently First Second couldn’t hire a continuity editor? After Anda has been grounded from using “recreational Internet,” there is a panel with her watching TV with her laptop on her lap when she gets a IM from one of her MMO buddies for a video chat. Next panel shows Anda in the laundry room video chatting and then she’s like, I TOTES HAVE TO GET BACK ON COARSEGOLD.

Does our heroine just log into the game in the privacy of the laundry room? OF COURSE NOT. SHE GOES TO AN INTERNET CAFE. I mean, honestly? How the fuck do you think video chats work? Through ESP? Seriously! This is a big graff — how could this have been missed through the editing process?

I also have additional problems with the book – like for example, Sarge, Anda’s mentor, walks her through the type of players she’s supposed to kill — who are all Asian. “If they don’t speak English, kill them!” Sarge orders. And the avatars of the Asians they are sent out to kill are all drawn like stereotypes of Asian farm workers. It’s — a bit bizarre considering one of the purported arcs of this book is about whites colonizing anyone not assumed white within the game, so I suppose you could argue this is why all Asians were drawn to be near identical to the other to prove some kind of racist point? (In fact, to kind of build on this, Anda often gets “confused” on who her buddy Raymond is as she searches for him in the game because — the avatars all look alike, If that is not some white people racist bullshit, I don’t know what is.).

And if the borderline racist attitude isn’t enough, the language did not give the impression of a teenagers figuring shit out and the language didn’t sound like something teenagers say. How can a book that is supposed to capture essence of teens yet sound like it written by a 40 year old man who is far on the wrong side of teenage years? Because it was, that’s why!

The only reason why I gave this dreck two stars was Jen Wang’s art is glorious. If anything, at least the book is pretty to look at.

Lastly, let’s take a real look at the economics of this book — based on the glowing reviews on GoodReads AND based on Doctorow’s reputation as a RIGHTING THE WRONGS HELLRAISER, even with all of obvious problems with this book, it’s going to be a big seller. In the end, is anyone really getting the message Doctorow is badly articulating and selling or do we just care we’re supporting someone who makes the noises to CHANGE THE WORLD while writing things that don’t really support that ideology?
Profile Image for Puck.
670 reviews303 followers
April 9, 2017
3 stars. Eeh, this was alright. Enjoyable but not memorable.

I liked the art style the most. The colors were bright and vivid and worked really well in making the digital world feel energized and alive. The fighting scenes especially stood out by their power and the dynamic movements of the characters. Wang did a great job at designing the diverse fantasy world of Coarsegold, and if it was real, I'd love to join the game community.

The plot however wasn't nearly as creative as the digital world of Coarsegold Online. Most of the characters fell flat for me (expect Anda) and certain events were pretty predicable. I felt like Doctorow should have taken more time to work the story out properly, because the topics that are discussed in this novel are important and based on real-life problems. Now things with Raymond were wrapped up so quickly that you never got the time to really think about those problems, which is damaging and kind of disrespectful.

Still, the feminist aspect of this story is a good one, and all the different female gamers are wonderful in their own way. In the end games are supposed to bring people together because everyone loves to play, and Doctorow and Wang succeeded in getting that positive message across.
I'm happy to have this graphic novel in my collection, and I'd love to check out more of Wang's work in the future.
Profile Image for Lily.
37 reviews67 followers
July 24, 2019
Please tell me I'm not the only one who found this graphic novel incredibly problematic?

My biggest problem with In Real Life is the way it portrays social class. Dichotomies between classes is rarely discussed in literature geared toward younger audiences. I was ecstatic when I thought I finally found a book to dive into these issues. But after having read it, I have to say that I think this graphic novel failed miserably at the task.

It was so frustrating to see that the social problems facing the Chinese workers were used as nothing more than plot devices conveniently placed to allow for the main character's personal grow. What was equally irritating was that readers were not even given the opportunity to explore these issues further or to witness the lives of the workers beyond their poorly depicted living circumstances.

I would not have had such a problem with the depiction of social class if I didn't believe the book actually sent the wrong message to readers. It highlights numerous complex and important issues and then decides they can all be solved by the generic advice of a teenage girl? The idea that anyone in the first world - even a teenager with a love for video games - can possibly solve problems originating within a world and culture she barely understands is ridiculous at best.

There were many aspects of this graphic novel that I completely adored. I loved the fact that our main character was Latina and I loved the feminist message the book sent. But the fact that there is such a strong emphasis placed upon social class and the way it is so poorly depicted is unacceptable in my eyes, even given the author's good intentions. I cannot say I'd recommend picking this one up. It was disappointing, to say the least.
Profile Image for Ferdy.
944 reviews1,122 followers
September 14, 2015

Loved the artwork, wasn't as impressed by the rest. Found the characters really flat and the most of the story quite dull and predictable, the gaming aspect (when the characters actually entered the video game) was quite fun though.
Was more interested in Raymond's life and the problems he faced in his workplace in China than Anda's first world problems and second hand angst.
Kind of hated the end where the complicated issues Raymond (and other players like him) faced were solved in the most cheesiest way possible, it was so unrealistic how everything worked out so perfectly for them, there were no consequences or backlash to their demands. The worst aspect though was the whole white savior complex, with Anda being outraged and crusading for justice and all the Chinese players needing generic advice from her to stand up to their boss (for some reason they couldn't do anything without her). It was irritating as the help Anda gave was so simple and something they could have easily come up with themselves.
Did enjoy the focus on gamer girls, but that didn't make up for the rubbish aspects.
Profile Image for Lotte.
559 reviews1,116 followers
October 16, 2015
The good part is that this got me reading after I've been in a reading slump during the last couple of weeks. The not-so-good part is that the story was, well... not so good. The art was rather mediocre in my opinion and the plot just lacked something. While I've loved every graphic novel I've read so far, this was the first one that didn't really grab or excite me. Meh.
Profile Image for Juan Naranjo.
Author 5 books2,560 followers
May 25, 2020
En una época en la que pasamos tantas horas ajenos a lo que nos rodea mientras estamos completamente sumidos en mundos contenidos dentro de pantallas, procede preguntarse hasta qué punto nuestra vida virtual es sólo virtual o si realmente lo que vivimos en esa virtualidad (con su aprendizaje, sus enfados, sus emociones...) es una parte ya inherente a nuestra vida real. Este pensamiento es alrededor del que gira este magnífico cómic que cuenta la historia de una chica amante de los juegos de rol y los videojuegos que empieza a jugar a una historia colaborativa online en un mundo de fantasía en el que comparte espacio y vivencias con otras jugadoras de todo el mundo.

“En la vida real” es capaz de cumplir la difícil tarea de mezclar cómic y videojuego, realidad y fantasía, ocio y compromiso social. Y lo hace de una manera emocionante y maravillosa, creando unos personajes contemporáneos, reales y encantadores, y un mundo extraordinario en el que dan ganas de quedarse a vivir.

Me ha encantado como trata temas tan complejos como la sororidad, la lucha sindical, las dificultades online de las mujeres o el privilegio (en derechos, en aspiraciones, en poder vivir la adolescencia como adolescente y no como trabajador) de haber nacido en una esquina del mundo y no en otra.

Me daba un poco de miedo leer un cómic de Jen Wang previo al magistral “El príncipe y la modista” porque pensaba que era imposible que estuviese a la altura de este. Y me daba miedo también leer un cómic en el que ella es “solo” la ilustradora, siendo el guión de Cory Doctorow... Pero me ha sorprendido muy favorablemente porque este podría ser perfectamente un cómic solo de ella, ya que en él se encuentran muchas de las claves que desarrolló en su historia posterior.

Me gusta haber aprendido sobre el mundo de las mujeres en los videojuegos, y estoy deseando que se ponga ya a la venta en España “Destellos” la más reciente historia de la autora.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,723 reviews260 followers
January 10, 2018
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Anda spends most of her free time playing Coarsegold Online, an MMORPG, where she can be a hero, meet people from all over the world, and make new friends. Things get complicated when she meets a gold farmer in the game. A poor Chinese kid plays the avatar who's job it is to collect valuable items in the game and sell them to players with money to burn. That's strictly against the rules of the game, but Anda quickly begins to realize that these things are less straightforward when a real person's livelihood is at stake in real life.

I don't know how, but this is the first story by Cory Doctorow that I've ever read. I know, I can'be believe it either. Either way, In Real Life is a pretty great graphic novel. It's a lot of fun with all with quite a sense of adventure and it's good seeing Anda begin to come into her own as the story progresses. Doctorow also uses this story to discuss more difficult topics, like poverty, culture clash, harsh working conditions, and exploitation. The author manages to successfully work with a fair bit during the short amount of time we're with these characters and he makes it really engaging while he's at it. By the way the art style perfectly fits the tone of the story, both in the game and in real life scenes. Overall, In Real Life is a good introduction to the work Cory Doctorow. If you like the work of Noelle Stevenson and Gene Luen Yang, then I have a feeling you may also enjoy this new graphic novel. I know I will definitely be back for more of Doctorow's earlier novels.

Thanks again, NetGalley!
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