Review: In Real Life by Cory Dotorow and Jen Wang

Genre: Contemporary Age Level: Young Adult Series: N/A
Genre: Contemporary
Age Level: Young Adult
Series: N/A

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.


This graphic novel tackles some serious topics pertaining to computer gaming. However, it doesn’t explore these topics to the fullest. In all though, I really enjoyed reading this novel and gaining insight into a the world of gaming.


  1.  Women and gaming. Though I don’t play myself, I know there is a lack of female gamers and those that do, as the novel points out, take on male avatars. In Real Life questions this and calls for girls to not be ashamed of their love of gaming.
  2. Gold farming. I had no clue what this was before reading, but basically people work to accomplish tasks that are either tough or time consuming and then sell their winnings to other gamers for real money. It is an area of great controversy as many people view this an unfair and in violation of the spirit of gaming. However, the novel sheds light on the flip side, how people in third world countries need the money to survive and see gaming as a preferable job.
  3. Labour issues/rights. The novel reveals the ugly side of employment in countries such as China where bosses treat their workers horribly and force them to work long hours for little pay.

I wish that the above listed topics were even further examined, especially the first one. I’d have loved more about the reasons for this phenomena and how they counter the comments made by male gamers. The solution for the central conflict is a little too good to be true and occurs unrealistically fast. Apart from that, I had no other issues with the plot.

In Real Life is also a portrait of an unlikely friendship between a middle class American gamer and a poor Asian gold farmer. The novel highlights the positive aspects of gaming, and friendships like these are among the pros.

The artwork is lovely and pairs perfectly with the text. It is clean and bright, bringing Anda’s world to life.


Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!


I love hearing from you and will always reply!

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