Monday, December 29, 2014

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang


Summary (from Goodreads):
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. 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.

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 (Little Brother, For the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.
Review:

I loved this book! There are so many good things going for this book that I was a little worried that there would be too many things all at once (jammed down my throat). But, somehow, all these fantastic ideas/concepts worked fantastic all together. What are some of these great things? There are girl gamers (!), there’s politics, there’s economics, there’s strategy, and there’s so much reality.
By reality, I mean there was just so much about this book that spoke true and that seemed genuinely authentic. I loved that the main character wasn’t skinny (though her created avatar was). She wore normal person clothes (like jeans and sweaters). She had to explain to her mother the world of gaming and her mother had to work hard to understand it, or even believe that it was more that a sick place for perverts to meet teenage girls.
I love how Anda learns and grows through this game. She first sees gold farming for what it is: a way to the cheat the game to make a profit. But when she becomes friends with a gold farmer who works all day in China, and then works all night for someone else as a gold farmer, just so he can have an hour of the game for his own personal use (it’s a different story). Her friend is being paid to cheat the game, and it’s his only way of getting to play. It’s a way of survival for him. Right and wrong become less clear to Anda.
And when Anda finally thinks she’s doing something “right,” she ends up inadvertently hurting her new friend. There’s culture clashing, language learning, politics, and so much involved in this game. I loved how seriously the authors took this. I loved how they made the game both fun, but also serious and real.
In other words, for a book that only takes about an hour to read, infinite amounts of important topics were covered. And never did I feel like I was being preached to about what was right and what wasn’t. A lot of was in a grey area where I could decide what I thought was good. I give this one a 10/10.  

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