ARC Review: “In Real Life” by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

So, I’m really confused at this book. I requested in via NetGalley and the publisher lists the release date as February 13. But when I check on Goodreads, it’s been out since 2014! I don’t know if there are content changes or it’s being released by a new publisher. But I’m going to go ahead and label this as an ARC review.

Thanks NetGalley and First Second / Square Fish Books for giving a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

in real lifeTitle: In Real Life
Author(s): Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang (illustrator)
Publisher: Square Fish
Release date: February 13, 2018
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, graphic novel
Length: 175 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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.”

five-starsMy Thoughts

This was actually a lot shorter than I thought it was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for something as all-encompassing and deep as the topic surrounding this graphic novel is, I really wanted there to be more. If you’ve been a gamer for at least a few years, you know the topic of gold farming and then selling to make a profit is nothing new. Due to the regions where gaming is popular, it’s easy for something like this to be pushed onto the back burner.

The main character, Anda, is shy, but when she’s permitted by her parents to join the  gaming world of Coarsegold Online, she finds her niche, and finds that she’s good at it. This causes her to feel confident in her public life, too, like at school and with some of her friends. But when her mother learns this game she’s playing as real world consequences and actions, she’s hesitant to let her daughter continue. Anda, of course, reacts negatively, and that’s after she meets the gold farmer.

Reflected in her own life is just a small fraction of what the gold farmer experiences. And when I say small, it’s miniscule. It’s such a large social issue to tackle in less than 180 pages. Anda wants to help, but it’s hard for her to see the repercussions of her actions even in the online world. There is a moment when she’s confronted by one of the gold farmer’s friends, and that’s when she realizes it isn’t that easy.

This graphic novel does have a happy ending, both online and in Anda’s life. I enjoyed the storyline and illustrations. As a female gamer myself, it’s nice to see myself reflected in a story and it really drew me into the story. It’s also a quick and easy read, which, personally, helped me with my reading goal (which I recently changed from 90 to 75 due to personal reasons).

You can purchase this graphic novel from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, and IndieBound. I imagine you can find it at other booksellers, too, but I personally don’t browse the graphic novel section.

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