Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Level Up” as Want to Read:
Level Up
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Level Up

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  5,723 ratings  ·  784 reviews
From Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and author of American Born Chinese, comes a magical realist coming-of-age tale, by turns whimsical and deadly serious.

Nothing is what it seems when life collides with video games.

Dennis Ouyang has always struggled in the shadow of his parents’ expectations: Stay focused in high school, do well in c
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 19th 2016 by Square Fish (first published 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Level Up, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Level Up

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,723 ratings  ·  784 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Level Up
It pisses me off when people vilify video games. You can go to med school and play games during your down-time. My brother is in grad school and he still finds time for his hobbies. Video games are not some evil time-waster that'll rot your brain, preventing you from graduating or excelling in school. You don't have to give up something you love to become a grown-up, and I find it insulting that this book insinuates that only lazy people who don't want to get ahead in life would play video games ...more
Jan Philipzig
Level Up tells the story of a young Asian American torn between his passion for video games and his sense of obligation towards his parents, and it touches upon several potentially interesting topics: the meaning of family and community in an increasingly individualized society, the growing pressure to attend higher education, the delayed transition to adulthood, and the role of commercial culture in all this. Unfortunately, the book does not really have all that much to say about any of these t ...more
Let me say that I pretty much think that video games are a time sucking evil in this world, but I have played some of them in my life. So this was an interesting read.

I thought this was such a great story. This kid grows up and his parents won't let him play video games and that's all he wants to do. His father demands he becomes a doctor. The dad dies and the kid begins to play games and has a natural ability and does really well. Then 4 angels show up and force him into college and force him t
Seth T.
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
There was this one scene in Gene Yang's Level Up that struck truer for me than maybe any other two-panel pair in the history of comics. In it, a friend describes the Nintendo Entertainment System to a young Dennis. Let's listen in:

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham

The reason this scene resonated so strongly with me was that this was word for word my own response to the discovery that such a machine would be coming to American shores. I mean, give or take a word. The impact of gaming systems on my young life was indelible, stampi
This trim little graphic novel has been picking up some buzz, much like everything else that Gene Luen Yang does. Plus, the cover looks like a classic Game Boy. Win. Seriously, though, I was pleasantly surprised by this graphic novel. What looked like and began as a familiar story about a disillusioned young person finding solace in video games turned into a quirky, profound morality play about coming to terms with your family and creating your own destiny.

Dennis Ouyang is on the verge of being
KB Wayne
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My smarty-pants nine year-old adores this book -- it'd come up on a "recommended for you" page on Amazon so I got it. He read it a few times one afternoon, so I grabbed it for a quick read as well. From my adult perspective I found it charming with more than a touch of melancholy.

Beautifully written and beautifully drawn.

In general the maturity of the book is (clearly) beyond a nine year-old, but it proved great fodder for us to talk at the dinner table about what we'd read and taken away from "
Rebecca (whymermaids)
After having read American Born Chinese earlier this year, I was excited to pick up more of Gene Luen Yang’s work. I loved the simple art style, the Asian-American characters and themes, and the simple yet effective story.

Level Up hit those marks, but not quite to the extent American Born Chinese did. While it still focused on family and dynamics of the culture (this time discussing youth culture rather than that of Asian-Americans, though there is a bit of that as well), it didn’t resonate quit
J L's Bibliomania
Level Up predated the craze for graphic novel autobiographies by a couple of years (2011 publication date). While the story is fictional, and there are a few fantastical aspects, Level Up is close enough to a real-live coming of age story that it feels like an autobiography.
Julia Sapphire
Jul 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I liked the concepts with gaming and destiny. It definitely gives an interesting point of view on those two topics in particular.
Chris Walker
I had a lot of hope for this book, as it touches on a number of topics that I find really interesting. Specifically, I'm interested in stories where characters struggle to find what it is they're passionate about in life while navigating the expectations of others, especially parents. Also, growing up in the 90s, I strongly relate to video games, to the way they can become an all-consuming world.

Unfortunately, I feel as though the story never really dug into its themes. There's a lot of untapped
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool concept - a son of Asian immigrants who have lived lives of "eating bitterness" is torn between his father's wish for him to pursue his "destiny" of becoming a gastroenterologist and his all-consuming need to play video games. The magical realism elements and the sparse watercolor art style allowed the emotional aspect to come through, since it gave me time to think about what was happening without overwhelming with a complicated style. I wish it was longer and explored the side relationshi ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gn-ya
Pretty entertaining. The story is of a video game player strugglng with obligations/guilt re: family who want(ed) him to be a gasteroentologist while he is a talented gamer...
Kim Clifton
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An adorable, quick read that features a surprising amount of poop.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
As a fan of Yang's The Shadow Hero I approached Level Up - which nostalgically references some classic 80's-era video games in the plot - with certain expectations of similar quality. While the concept (in a nutshell - a video game addict attends medical school under familial pressure . . . and then weird things happen) was good and the ending was just perfect, the actual journey was a little uneven at times. Still, it's lively with some depth to it and would be effective for a teen / young adul ...more
Rain Misoa
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gamers and people who love graphic novels!
Recommended to Rain by: Library
This is my second graphic novel that I've read by Gene Luen Yang, the first being American Born Chinese and it does NOT disappoint. I first heard of this comic from a YouTube video a few years back and I knew, me being a gamer, I would love this tremendously. After I read American Born Chinese and saw how much I enjoyed that story, it was a given that I was going to LOVE this book~ Well, the other day, I'm browsing the library and, lo and behold, there it was! On the shelf! In all its glory! I w ...more
A coming of age story about a young man who struggles to fulfill his destiny. From a young age he is interested in video games, but his father doesn't support this hobby. When his father passes away while the young man is still in high school he delays the grieving process with hardcore gaming.

Years pass and the young man is flunking college. A band of angels appear and help steer the boy to his destiny: med school so he can become a gastroenterologist and help save people from suffering the wa
Stewart Tame
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dennis Ouyang loves videogames, to the exclusion of just about everything else. On the brink of dropping out of college, he is visited by a quartet of angels who help him turn his life around and go on to med school. But something seems to be missing ... This is a deceptively simple story. Just when you think you know where it's going, it swerves. More than once. This reads well. I like the art, not by Yang himself (which is a shame, as he's really good), but by Thien Pham, of whom I have no pre ...more
Nazarene Static
Gene Luen Yang is slowly but surely becoming one of my favorite graphic novelists. Granted, I haven't read a whole bunch of graphic novels. However, compared to the few others I have read Yang's have a uniquely creative way of getting an unexpected message across.

Level Up follows the life of a young man named Dennis Ouyang. Dennis is saddled with a burden most foreign offspring face; achieving the dreams of our parents. Dennis is met by four irritatingly bossy angels at a turning point in his li
Ken Yuen
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of felt like a combination of ABC's Chinese stories with the unclear message of Saints. I really like Yang's ability to surprise people with twists and surprises in his stories, but sometimes it feels like the message doesn't come together.

I wish I had five cherubs to do my chores and help me along with my destiny (or force me to adhere to it against my will?) I understand what they are metaphorically, but I feel like it would have been more satisfying if they existed just in David's mind a
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gotta say it - I missed Yang's pictures. Although his storytelling is absolutely good enough to suck you in no matter what the pictures look like, I feel like the magical realism elements to this story didn't work as well in watercolor as they do in the computer-based illustrations Yang used in American Born Chinese.

That said, I appreciated that this wasn't just another "Asian-amerikan kid under massive pressure by his parents" story. I enjoyed the detail in the medical school and video game
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics, video-games
Written by the author of American Born Chinese, and illustrated by Thien Pham, Level Up tells the story of an Asian American man (Dennis) torn between the expectations of his family (in this case, to be a doctor) and following his own passion (in this case, video games). Pushing him further are four adorable greeting card angels who "help" him to concentrate on his destiny. I like it when an author uses elements of speculative fiction to talk about real world issues, and does it well. This is on ...more
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
About once a year I check out a stack of graphic novels from the library and go on a comics bender. Level Up was on top of the stack today, and it was a quick, fun read with a lot of strengths. The story takes some unexpected turns (including an element of magical realism) that keep you guessing, and there's an emotional core to the story (in the form of a card given to the main character by his father) that's really moving. Then there's the ending, which is priceless.

I think this would be an e
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
Dennis Ouyang struggles to live up to his parents' high expectations through college and med school when all he really wants to do is play video games. With a little help from a quartet of seemingly innocent angels, he learns to find his true destiny.

Gene Luen Yang's latest graphic novel, illustrated by Thien Pham, tells a story of family loyalty and finding your true calling in beautiful full color illustrations. A touch of magical realism and snippets of med school mayhem bring some lightheart
Colona Public Library
I like this story because of what you want to do with your life vs. the expectations your family has of you. Finding balance in your life but he doesn't really find that, it always seems it's one or the other with the character, but he never really found that exists! I think that's what the ending was about, but it really was disappointing because he just gave up games completely still. The water color work in this book is messy, although still charming. This was a good, fast, and c ...more
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this graphic novel! The way video games were used in both metaphorical and literal senses were very clever. I also thought there was meaningful message, and it was even humorous at times.
Stacey B.
This one surprised me. I really enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I especially loved the ending.
Jiahui Z
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang was found on Kirkus Reviews. It features Dennis Ouyang an Asian-American student struggling to find his true calling in life. Throughout the story we see his love of video games and his dilemma with school. With the visit from four ghosts he goes through his struggle with deciding if he truly wants to fulfill the destiny set by his father, who passed away, of going to medical school or not.

Since this is a graphic novel the illustrations of the text play a huge role. T
Avery (ThePagemaster)
I loved Gene Luen Yang's take on Avatar: the Last Airbender, after the events of the show, and I thought American Born Chinese was 'meh'. I can relate to Dennis a WHOLE LOT! It has its cute moments; it has its deeper moments. This was a nice, quick read. ...more
Working my way through the best graphic novels of the past decade as decided on by Goodreads - or at least what TPL has available of those titles. This was cute!
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: Book #36: Level Up by Gene Luen Yang 1 3 Apr 02, 2013 07:04PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Brain Camp
  • Class Act (New Kid, #2)
  • Almost American Girl
  • All Together Now
  • Will & Whit
  • Measuring Up
  • Page by Paige
  • Doodleville (Doodleville, #1)
  • The Okay Witch (The Okay Witch, #1)
  • Grand Theft Horse
  • Shattered Warrior
  • In Real Life
  • Displacement
  • Pashmina
  • Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
  • The Witch and the Beast, Vol. 1
  • Wild River
  • Mercury
See similar books…
Gene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan's Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book. American Born Chinese received National Book Award.


Related Articles

  Ellen Oh is an award-winning author of middle grade and young adult novels such as Spirit Hunters, The Dragon Egg Princess, and A Thousand...
75 likes · 9 comments
“So basically, you get to play Super Mario all you want, any time you want, for FREE !"

"That is the single most amazing thing I've ever heard.”
“We do not regret the sacrifices we make for others, Dennis. Not ever!” 1 likes
More quotes…