From the second you look at its pixelated cover, it becomes clear that Steve Brezenoff’s novel, Guy in Real Life, is for gamers. With alternating POVs that range from characters on a screen to live role play characters to actual people, this book has a lot to offer in the way of quirky, eclectic charm.
I was especially excited to read it because RPGs (Role Playing Games) have always been the only video games I go in for, since I love the storytelling aspect of them. I always thought playing Dungeons and Dragons sounded like fun – I mean, it’s just like participating in one giant Choose Your Own Adventure story, right? So I thought this book would be the perfect way to experience some gamer culture, without actually having to pick up a mouse/dice.
There are a lot of good things about this book. The descriptions are lush, the characters are realistic, and the plot is straightforward enough (boy meets girl who doesn’t fit into his social circle, falls in love, etc.). I was drawn in by passages like this one:
“You feel the draw and release of the current in your stomach as you read, because that’s the rhythm of the poem, and that’s what the alliteration of the piece makes you feel. You feel the waves move up and down, and the tide go in and come out. You feel the horses ready to run. You feel the earth itself breathe in and out. In and out. In and out.” I try to catch my breath, to slow down a little, but I can’t. “Longfellow makes you feel the rhythm of life and death.”
I think Brezenoff shines when he’s describing his worlds, both the “real” one and the imaginary ones that exist only in the games. I felt myself breathing with the characters, seeing what they saw, tasting what what they tasted on the air itself, and I found that to be the most captivating part of the novel.
Unfortunately, this book wasn’t my cup of tea. I thought it was cute, and it definitely had some quirks, but in the end I felt like the plot was trying so hard to be different, it lost what made it stand out to me in the first place. The ending veered off in a direction I wasn’t expecting, and didn’t think was necessary, and I just kind of lost interest during the last fifty pages or so. Perhaps, if I were a more serious gamer I would have appreciated it all more, but as it was, I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up again (and I’m a serious re-reader).
Overall Reaction: “Why is everyone in this book making such a big deal out this kid’s choice of character in a video game?!”
Up Next Week: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling