Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Product Description(from

Video Games vs. Medical School! 
Which will win the battle for our hero’s attention in Gene Luen Yang’s new graphic novel? 
Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally. But four adorable, bossy, and occasionally terrifying angels arrive just in time to lead Dennis back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. It’s all part of the plan, they tell him. But is it? This powerful piece of magical realism brings into sharp relief the conflict many teens face between pursuing their dreams and living their parents’. Partnered with the deceptively simple, cute art of newcomer Thien Pham, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized with American Born Chinese. Whimsical and serious by turns, Level Up is a new look at the tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.

My Thoughts
I have not posted a book review in quite some time or at least it seems like a long time. I just have not been able to find the time needed to get the reading done. Plus, being summer I usually don't read much YA as I just need a break from this genre after reading it all school year.

However, I was excited to read this graphic novel. The cover alone was enough to sell me as it brought back my memories of playing on my Gameboy for hours and hours and hours. Man, how times have changed in the gaming world, but the Gameboy was unstoppable for a long time.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. I read it in one sitting one morning when I awoke before the rest of the crew. I sat on my deck with my coffee and breezed right through this. I really became in tune with the main character as he was trying to balance the tough decisions of life - living the life you want or living the life your parents want. As we grow up this is a tough decision. Early on we often think we have everything figured out and that is not always the case. Without parents who knows where some of us would end up. However, as we continue to grow up, leave high school, and enter college we start to understand the world and ourselves. This book does a great job touching upon how we just need to do what makes us happy. As parents it is a good reminder to make sure we prepare our kids to make their own decisions and not try to dictate their lives. Both are very hard.

The illustrations were great. I like the style and art. I enjoyed how as the main character went through the different phases of life it was breached by "Level One, Level Two...." just like in a video game. The dialogue was great. I actually wrote down a few phrases to use in some future blog posts as I found myself really thinking about some of the comments of the characters.

The one thing that I understood why they were there, but got on my nerves after a little while were the angels. It all makes sense when you read, but for part of the reading I was like, "Why are they being used again?" Once you read, then you will understand the meaning behind them and it works well.

This is another great graphic novel. I am slowly enjoying these more and more as I pick these up to read every so often. This is another one that rather surprised me and recommend to anyone. And yes, it did cause me to pull out my old Gameboy from storage and give it a try.
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