________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 27. . . .March 20, 2015


In Real Life.

Cory Doctorow. Illustrated by Jen Wang.
New York, NY: First Second (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2014.
175 pp., trade pbk., $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-59643-658-9.

Subject Heading:
Graphic novels.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Natalie Schembri.

**** /4



When I started gaming online there were no women gamers. I was one of the best games in the world and I couldn’t even be proud of who I was.

It’s different now, but it’s still not perfect. We’re going to change that, chickens, you lot and me.

Here’s my offer to the ladies: if you play as a girl in Coarsegold Online, you will be given probationary memberships in Clan Fahrenheit. If you measure up in three months, you’ll be full fledged members.

Who’s in ladies? Who wants to be a girl in-game and out?


Firstly, I love that Jen and Cory have created a graphic novel about a girl who games and who is really good at it, too! In Real Life tells the story of high school student Anda and her gamer-girl passion for the multiplayer role-playing game Coarsegold Online. Coarsegold provides Anda, or Kalidestroyer of Clan Fahrenheit, with the online opportunity and community to be a strong female team player, hone her online gaming skills, and have other girls in the guild look up to her for advice and as an exemplar player. Anda’s invitation by the Lizanator—one of Coarsegold’s organizers—to join the female guild, and play as a female avatar, provides Anda, and readers, with a strong and welcomed feminist message.

      This story also reveals Anda’s compassion for others through her concern and commitment to helping Raymond, her Chinese gold farming friend, in the online world using North American labor tactics in an effort to help Raymond achieve health coverage and equity in his real life workplace in China. Anda’s sympathy and concern for the Raymond’s unjust health and workplace wellness is informed by her father’s employment strike action.

     This graphic narrative presents Anda’s journey through the online gaming world of Coarsegold and on her real life path towards friendship and community at her new school. Most significantly, In Real Life demonstrates Anda’s transformation into a self-confident, determined, and informed protagonist who reaches out to help Raymond in the online community and, in the end, also invites a female to join her in-school gaming club.

      I cannot forget to mention that Wang’s artwork was incredibly magical to read; both the real world characters and the online avatars were beautifully illustrated.

     A fabulous, fast-paced, and moving graphic novel. I wish I had more than the 175 pages to read! I would highly recommend In Real Life for school and public library collections.

Highly Recommended.

Natalie Schembri is a librarian in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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