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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Excellent graphic novel for middle school girls by Cory Doctorow!

Doctorow, Cory; Wang, Jen (2014) In Real Life. New York:  First Second.


Opening lines:
Anda, wake up!  I made your favorite!  Huevos rancheros!  Happy birthday, Sweetpea!

Anda is kind of plump.  Her life at school does not seem to be a lot of fun.  When a guest speaker explains to their class about multi-player on-line games, Anda finds herself giving it a try. The next thing she knows, she is part of a crew of girls who slaughter gold farmers to drive up the value of the gold they have.  At first, Anda enjoys the chance to e accepted and valued for her skills rather than her appearance.  When she actually talks to a gold farmer, though, she finds out that he is actually a teenager in China who is being exploited as a child worker.  One of her crew members discovers that Anda has been fraternizing with the enemy, and suddenly Anda finds herself in a moral quandary between calling out her fellow team remembers as bullies (and losing their company) and standing up for that which she deeply believes is right.

Doctorow's writing complements Jen Wang's images beautifully.  Wang shows a remarkable contrast between the brilliant and beautiful world of the game, and the brown, dim, and stale world of real life. 

Themes covered in this graphic novel include the difficulty of making good decisions in morally ambiguous situations, how the value of a person does not depend on what they look like, and how social justice requires a strong sense of responsibility.  The graphic novel also ends on a strong note of justice and reconciliation.

There are a few words in this book that might cause the book to be challenged.  A few mild vulgarities, a couple of places where characters use God's name in vain, and an occasional image or two that shows smoking.  All in all though, the book would get a PG-13 rating. 

This might be a good book to add to a middle school library. 

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