Graphic Novel: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
The introduction of this book was pretty epic in the way it engaged me to rethink economics (a subject I wasn’t so great at in college but probably only because I had a poor attitude towards it). Cory Doctorow, the author, starts with this wonderful bit about gaming and economics, and why both are relevant to youth today. He starts out with basically, games = duh and economics = important but yuck to most people. Here’s where it gets interesting…
“When you put economics and games together, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a bunch of sticky, tough questions about politics and labor. 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 people are poor, and how they seem to get stuck there.”
Cory then encourages us to dive deeper into behavioral economics (huh? what’s that? meaning?) and to think about why we think we need things (ultimately buying them) and what that means for the people who make those things. Study how people organize movements and how easy that has become over the last decade. Consider the impact of MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) and the organizing of people to do things that affect economics (i.e. the rise of digital currencies like bitcoin and ethereum). Mind. Blown. Looks like I have some research to do. If anyone has any recommendations for books on behavioral economics please send them my way!
OK, on to the graphic novel itself! The illustrations are wonderful, throughout the book you really can feel the emotions of the characters even when they are subtle. The graphics flow naturally and entertain the reader instantly. The main character Anda seems a little lonely and pretty normal. She’s a gamer and doesn’t know many other girl gamers. When a guest speaker comes to her high school her world changes. She’s introduced to a MMO and an organization that wants girl gamers.
When Anda logs into the game you can feel she really becomes herself. She kicks butt with the guild, starts learning about the economy within the game, makes some unlikely friends across the globe, and well, learns a lot about how the world works (and doesn’t).
I think this book is suitable for mature middle grade readers. I say mature because there are some bad words in the text. There is also some violence but nothing too graphic.
Overall, the message and story are good. The book raises a lot of questions about ethics and shows that there is a fuzzy line between right/wrong good/bad and In Real Life those lines are harder to navigate than most people think.
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