In Real Life by Cory Doctorow illustrated by Jen Wang | Graphic Novel Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow illustrated by Jen Wang | Graphic Novel ReviewIn Real Life by Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang
Published by Macmillan on 2014-10-14
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comics & Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 192
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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. From acclaimed teen author Cory Doctorow and rising star cartoonist Jen Wang, In Real Life is a sensitive, thoughtful look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture-clash.

Why Did I Read This Book?

I love books about gaming. I am not a gamer at all, by any means. Yet, there is something about the idea of people coming together for some sort of virtual quest or even just the community that gaming can provide that really appeals to me. Now, that stated, I need to also put in a disclaimer that I do not know a whole lot about the GamerGate thing, so none of this review will discuss In Real Life by Cory Doctorow in relation to GamerGate, because I do not really feel qualified to discuss my opinion on that. All I know is that females are being harassed and it’s bad news. Okay, so as to why I read In Real Life, honestly, after Ready Player One captured my heart, I just have been so open to reading other books with similar gaming themes, be they non-fiction or fiction. So, of course when this graphic novel came across my vision, I immediately got excited and used my autoapproval to get a copy on my computer. Frankly, that was an awesome life choice!

What’s The Story Here?

Main character Anda is at school, when this woman who is totally cool comes into her classroom for a presentation. Her presentation is about this online game called Coarsegold and how she’s looking to recruit females for her guild and to become gamers. The woman talks about the benefits of gaming for girls. And so, Anda begs her mother and ends up signing up for Coarsegold. She gets really into the game and finds herself performing side missions with a fellow guild member, the side missions being where they have been hired by strangers to kill gold-farmers, or people who play the game all day and collect and sell items for money to newbie players. Along the way, Anda meets Raymond, a gold-farmer from China who wants to improve his English. Raymond’s life is hard — he doesn’t have access to medical insurance or care and has back issues. So, of course, there’s a bit of a social justice aspect to the book. Anda finds herself questioning the mission to kill gold-farmers, and thus, the central quandary of the book — ethics in gaming and gold-farming.

What Was My Opinion Of The Book As A Whole?

Straight up, I really enjoyed In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. I whipped through this book in what felt like record time. I loved the social justice aspect. I know that some people think it doesn’t go as far as it should or that it’s I don’t know, not done the right way, but for me, I liked it. I wasn’t overwhelmed or all depressed. I learned about an actual issue that happens in the gaming community. I loved Anda’s character. I liked how in the book she seemed to really find her voice through gaming. It gave her the courage to dye her hair a bold color (which frankly does take courage — I dye my hair consistently but only natural to me colors). I loved how eventually Anda became inclusive toward a non-gamer girl who is popular and on student council. I wasn’t so much into what seemed like a forced romance between Anda and Raymond. Overall, though, In Real Life is a nice, easy read and worked as a palate cleanse sort of graphic novel.

How’s The Art?

I read a fair amount of graphic novels and have not come across Wang as an illustrator until now. I really like the way that she draws characters. I liked that a variety of body shapes were portrayed in this book. Anda is not a skinny waif, not that there is anything wrong with being thin, but her character’s body breaks that default mode. I loved the use of color in this book, and how it really enhances the story. The colors seemed soft and not overly bold, which, again, I liked. I loved how the world of Coarsegold was illustrated. I loved the illustrations of Anda and her character in Coarsegold. In all, the graphics in In Real Life were very appealing to me.

Sum It Up With A GIF:

Obviously, this book made me think of The Guild.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. This book sounds awesome! Even though I actually game quite a lot, I rarely ever read books about gaming.
    Celine recently posted..The Art of the Fun BookMy Profile

  2. I used to game -pre-motherhood – and I miss it. Maybe I should read about gaming to try and recapture some of that fun.


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