Up Late with In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

imgres Few texts have had such a profound impact on me as this phenomenal graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. As Doctorow writes in the introduction to the story: “In Real Life connects the dots between the way we shop, the way we organize, and the way we play, and why some people are rich, some are poor, and how they seem to get stuck there.” I had the pleasure of hearing Doctorow speak at the NCTE Secondary luncheon last month, and when he explained how In Real Life came to be and what it was about, I just had to get my hands on a copy–which I did shortly after the lunch as he was signing them. This graphic novel follows Anda, a student, as she becomes a talented player of Coarsegold Online, playing with an all-female guild (with a little nod to Bradbury, since it is called Clan Fahrenheit). Soon, she is doing side-tasks for actual money, but everything changes when she speaks to one of the characters she’s assigned to kill. Thus begins her friendship with Raymond, a young man who lives in China, who is paid to do menial labor in the online world. His health is in danger, and Anda becomes embroiled in a complicated world where she must understand how health insurance, worker strikes, and economics work. What I particularly like about this text is the subtlety of the drawings and the prose. Jen Wang has done a brilliant job in creating characters who can win the reader over with one look. Raymond’s avatar is adorable, but his eyes and body language convey so many different feelings. Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 5.07.00 PM I also appreciate that Doctorow includes commentary about the lack of understanding of online gaming, the need to understand how economics impact people, and even a side note about being inclusive to others. The many plot threads woven throughout the plot line braid into a strong story that ropes us into it. I found myself thinking about this short graphic novel repeatedly after I finished it. I am amazed at how much depth is contained in a slim volume.  I’d love to see Doctorow and Wang collaborate on another book in the future. I could see teaching this in a high school class and pairing it with American Born Chinese or Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” I think you could probably find a way to teach this book in every class: English, history, economics, math, computer science. I may have to suggest it as our all-high-school read next year. Posted by Kate, VP of Secondary, PCTELA

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Up Late with In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

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