Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Book Review: Guy in Real Life

Guy in Real Life
By: Steve Brezenoff
Published By: Balzer + Bray/Harperteen
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Provided by Publisher
Audience/Genre: YA Fiction

First of all, this book it is not, as it claims to be in it's Goodreads summary, "in the vein of Rainbow Rowell and John Green" as far as I'm concerned, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of a three and a half birdie, "Great Read" review, because it is. But if you're expecting Eleanor & Park because the cover looks like a pixelated version of the E&P cover (it does), you'll be disappointed. Guy in Real Life is an emotional, coming of age story with a twist at the end that you don't have to own rolled a twenty-sided die or know what MMORPG stands for to appreciate and enjoy.

I love inciting incidents, and Guy in Real Life starts off with a nearly perfect one. Lana meets Lesh when she crashes into him on while riding her bike in the rain at 2:30 in the morning, ruining her sketchbook and an entire summer's worth of work. And of course, like any good meeting of two complete strangers, the coincidences and moments of serendipity that continue to throw them together don't end there.

But now I'm beginning to misrepresent the book, because even with all those serendipitous events, this is definitely a novel that is FAR more character-based than plot-based.  It is the internal struggles of both characters, but primarily Lesh, that carry the book (though there are a few good twists near the end that I won't spoil for you).

One of the aspects of this book that might confuse or turn a non-gaming (like me) reader off is the number of pages dedicated to in-person (like Dungeons & Dragons) and online role-playing games (like World of Warcraft). The in-person games didn't really bother me, but I will admit that I skimmed most of the chapters told from within the MMORPG. I don't know that it had as much to do with my lack of experience in role-playing games, as it did that those chapters seemed to drag a bit for me because the traditional fantasy genre isn't really my thing. But I want to stress that the gaming aspect did not keep me from enjoying the book. Not at all.

The ending of Guy in Real Life is unexpected, but in a good way. I've seen other reviews mention that the book could be classified as LGBT teen lit, and though I did not think of that when I was reading it, I could see how that might fit. The ending -- where gender roles are questioned, redefined, and in the end, don't really matter because it is the PEOPLE that matter -- is what made the book for me. I loved it.

Last Word: Guy in Real Life is an emotional, coming of age story with a twist at the end that you don't have to own rolled a twenty-sided die or know what MMORPG stands for to appreciate and enjoy.

Summary via Goodreads

From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story in the vein of Rainbow Rowell and John Green, about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren't in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.


  1. I'm reading this now, but not too far in. Glad you liked it. I, too, am having difficulty with all the descriptions of the online game...but I can skim with the best of them! Glad there are some interesting twists. Great review!

    1. Definitely stick through to the end. The reason for the amount of online game stuff becomes clearer and though initially I wasn't sure about the ending events, they absolutely grew on me by the final page. :)

  2. OMG! This definitely sounds like the book I'll love. I love playing games so I can relate to the story. It's sad that you didn't like it. Great review and thanks for sharing! :D

    1. Sharmaine - But I did like it! lol 3.5 birdies is a great read. ;)


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