Mini-Review: In Real Life

20575446Title:   In Real Life
Author: Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
Genres: graphic novel, realistic fiction
Pages: 196
Publisher: First Second
Review Copy: the library
Availability: October 14th, 2014

Summary: Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. 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. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

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. [image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Not gonna lie… I picked up this book because of the awesome art and it did not disappoint. The colorful art is beautiful and well-drawn and five kinds of amazing. The actual story, on the other hand, did disappoint. The first half of In Real Life sets up an interesting story about Anda, who gets into playing Coarsegold Online and then befriends a Chinese teen who gold farms for a living. Issues such as feminism, poverty, and worker exploitation are brought up… and then later tossed aside.

In the second half of In Real Life, the story pacing goes haywire, speeds up rapidly, and ties up the entire conflict in a way that smelled really, really strongly of the white savior trope. Little time is given to the perspective of the Chinese gamers that are so central to the plot. It was disappointing to see the story take such a problematic turn. The art is stellar, and the graphic novel does present some interesting food for thought on feminism, economy, gaming and exploitation… but the problematic resolution was ultimately off-putting.

Recommendation: Borrow it someday

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