Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book Review: Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Guy In Real Life
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: Hardcover; 400
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Video Game Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy stories about gamer culture!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story about two teens that National Book Award–finalist Sara Zarr has called "wholly original and instantly classic."

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of the roles we all play—at school, at home, online, and with our friends—and the one person who might be able to show us who we are underneath it all.

Confession time: I was once a huge World of Warcraft fan. There was once a time where I dedicated hours upon hours of my life to traveling, crafting and raiding, happily immersed in Azeroth. So, it's a fact that books about MMOs make me happy. When I found out that Steve Brezenoff had written a book centering around this culture, I was sold without a second thought. The fact that there was both a male and a female protagonist also had me giddy. Really, I had rather high expectations for Guy in Real Life.

So, let's start with what this book got right. First off, all of the nods to MMOs and their distinct culture, were spot on. I found myself smiling and nodding as Lesh was introduced to this new world, plus all the jargon and traditions that come along with it. In fact, the portions of the story where the POV was that of Lesh's character were my favorite. It was like reading a Fantasy novel within another novel, and I ate it up. Brezenoff must have done his homework, and I thank him for it.

I also loved Svetlana's character as a whole. The fact that she was quirky, but unafraid of what others thought of her. When I first discovered that Svetlana was in fact the dungeon master of her own school gaming club, I honestly did a happy dance. D&D gets so much flak for being unacceptably nerdy. I loved that it brought that into a school setting, and showed how much it can bring a group of friends together. Plus, I loved that Svetlana was flawed. She wasn't this blonde-haired, perfect specimen of a girl for Lesh to fall in love with. She was rough around the edges, and yet spectacular.

So why the three star rating? Mainly, it's what this book got wrong. I was so surprised that, for a story with a female main character who is a self-proclaimed geek, there was so much negativity towards women and gaming. Granted, it was coming from other characters who weren't in the spotlight. Still, I can't deny that those pieces hurt my overall perspective. When a male character says "There are no girls on the Internet", I have to feel like I'm being attacked a bit. I also didn't understand Lesh's obsession with his female elf character. I don't want to spoil, so I'll leave it at that. Even when he tries to explain it at the end, it didn't make it feel any less like a stalker move. It made me feel icky.

Alas, that was what kicked my rating down. Other than that, I think this was an excellent story that pulled together a coming of age story and social gaming. I still love Brezenoff's writing as a whole. This particular story just wasn't exactly what I was hoping for.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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