Graphic Novel Round Up, December 2014

In Real Life
by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a couple instances mild swearing and because it’s about economics and gaming, it’s in the teen section of the bookstore. That said, A (who is in 5th grade) read it, understood most of it (at least the general idea), and really liked it. It’s in the teen graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I’ve never read anything by Cory Doctorow, but I was intrigued by this when it came into the store, and after reading a review of it for the Cybils blog I knew I needed to pick this one up.

Anda is a gamer. Which makes her a bit of an anomaly in her new school in Flagstaff, Arizona. So when a woman comes to their tech class, inviting them all to join this new online gaming community, Coarsegold, Anda jumps at the chance. Once inside the game, though, she soon finds out things are not all coming up roses. She hooks up with another player, Sarge, who introduces Anda to the world of gold farming. Actually, Anda and Sarge’s job is to kill off those who are gold farming — harvesting virtual gold for real money.

But then Anda befriends one of the gold farmers, a Chinese boy who goes by the English name, Raymond. She discovers that he’s being forced to work for hours on end without a break, for very little money and no health coverage. So, she gets Involved.

I enjoyed much about this foray into the gaming world. I enjoyed Anda as a character, and that Jen Wang drew her realistically. Even her avatar, which was slimmer and “whiter” than Anda was, wasn’t Barbie perfect. I enjoyed the fact that the introduction to the gamer world was a girl, as well. Especially with gamer-gate, acknowledging that girls are gamers, too (and good at it) is a good thing. Doctorow mentions in his introduction that this is not just about gamers, but it’s also about economics and making a difference. And I could see that as well; it’s a primer how electronic transactions take place and a reminder that in this world, no one is truly ever disconnected from anyone else.

Fascinating.

I Remember Beirut
by Zeina Abirached
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series (loosely speaking): A Game for Swallows
Content: Much like Hidden, this is about the effects of war on everyday people. It’s pretty matter-of-fact, but it feels like an older graphic novel. It’d be in the teen graphic novel section of the bookstore.

This is basically Abirached’s memories of growing up during the war in Lebanon. Her  house was in the middle of what she called “no man’s land”, which was a zone in between the worst of the fighting and the safer places in Beirut. Her memories are organized roughly chronologically, and range from the mundane — how they showered — to the macabre — her brother loved collecting bits of schrapnel — to the sad — when a neighbor had to move because their house got blown up.

Done in the same stark black and white drawings, it’s a reminder that no war is without casualties, and that sometimes those casualties are the everyday lives of people who aren’t even involved in the fighting. 

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