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As someone who games and enjoys graphic novels, I’ve been looking forward to reading this and I was not disappointed. In Real Life, written by Cory Doctorow and gorgeously illustrated by Jen Wang, is one of the coming-of-age story I’ve read in a long time!
The story begins with its protagonist, Anda, having just moved to a new town. Already a gamer, Anda accepts an invitation Liza McComb, a celebrity gamer who heads an all-girls guild in Coarsegold Online, a popular MMORPG, to join her guild. Once her race, class, and main weapons are selected, Anda enters the world of Coarsegold and is quickly befriended by Sarge, who offers her the chance to earn money by wiping out gold farmers, being that Anda thinks are bots. With some money in hand and beginning to make friends at the school’s sci-fi club, things are looking up for Anda. But when Anda befriends one of the gold farmers, she discovers that it is actually Raymond, a 16 year old Chinese boy who, after injuring himself working in a factory and unable to visit a doctor, now works 16 hours a day in sweatshop conditions collecting items that are sold to western players. Suddenly, Anda realizes her fantasy world has become all too real.
In Real Life is a heartwarming, breathtakingly beautiful, and narratively rich coming-of-age story, and Cory Doctorow does an excellent job giving Anda and Raymond unique personalities, and respects his audience enough to expect them to be to understand complex topics like feminism in gaming culture, gold farming, and economic inequality. That, and the fact that the people in your guild are probably operating out of different time zones! Additionally, Jen Wang’s illustrations are stunning, and her use of watercolor is just amazing.
While graphic novels might not be for everyone, In Real Life is a great read that, and I definitely recommend it to readers of all ages! I would give In Real Life a 10 out of 10!