Books · reviews

Book review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Remember that giant post I did about books about geeks and gamers? Well, here’s a review of one of those books:

IRLIn Real Life
By Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Published by First Second in 2014.


In Real Life is a graphic novel about a good-natured, misfit high school girl. She hears about an awesome, female-only guild in an MMORPG called Coarsegold Online and convinces her mom to let her join. Once part of the guild, she teams up with another player on some missions, and is eventually asked to start doing paid jobs (as in real money, not just online currency) getting rid of “gold farmers”. When she finds out that some of the gold farmers are real people who play the game to survive, she begins to question the morality what she’s been doing.

irl photo 2
Anda in character

It’s been a long time since I read a graphic novel, but In Real Life was a really quick read, even with my feeble attempts to pace myself. The story is pretty straightforward, and the overarching themes of the story are a bit in-your-face, but it was a decent book.  I’ve read a couple of complaints about how this is just another case of a privileged white person coming to save the lives of poor minorities, but I thought the overall message was more about doing the right thing and helping others when you can. And I did like the main character, Anda. In the beginning, she’s just a quiet, nerdy girl, but as the story progresses, she learns to stand up for herself and what she believes is right.

Another sample of Wang's beautiful illustrations
Another sample of Wang’s beautiful illustrations

Story aside, what really drew me to this book was the artwork.I absolutely loved the style of illustrations in In Real Life. The scenes where Anda is playing in the MMORPG are fantastic and beautiful. I love how when Anda is playing her character, the frames completely transform into the game. It’s like you are fully immersed along with her. Jen Wang is clearly incredibly talented, and I’d love to see more from her in this style.

As I mentioned above, this was a really quick read, with some nice artwork. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something you can read in one sitting, or maybe if you’re looking for a gift for that geeky high school girl you know.


If you liked this… keep an eye out for my review of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, which will be posting soon! 🙂

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