Monday, January 16, 2012
Review: Level Up
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Do you follow your dream or your family's? That is the question that Dennis Ouyang is asking himself as he debates his future. His father had wanted him to be a doctor - specifically, a gastroenterologist. But Dennis has a love, and a talent, for video games. At a major crossroads in his life, four angels come into his life to guide him along the straight and narrow. Sometimes sweet, sometimes terrifying, they want to make sure that Dennis fulfills his destiny.
This is not Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham's first graphic novel. They gained critical acclaim with their previous graphic novel, American Born Chinese (which is on my TBR list). But it is definitely a fantastic look at balancing the desires of our families with the desires of ourselves.
I'll admit that this gave me a glimpse into a life that is incredibly foreign to me. My parents had always wanted me to do what made me happy, and I've found myself doing the same with my boys. So to have a parent basically mapping out the future of their child seems wrong. It always had. But reading through this, seeing the bits of the why's behind the push by Dennis' father for his son to be a doctor. This book was more than just entertainment for me. It was also an enlightening book.
The artwork is much cruder than anything I find within the pages of a DC comic, but it fit well with the story of a kid obsessed with video games. For all that the black line artwork isn't masterful, it tells the story that it needs to. It made the story feel more like a boy telling his story rather than a piece of fiction. And I liked that.
The story itself was a wonderful journey, from the first moment Dennis saw a Pac-Man machine until the last panel where he showed what he can do. My heart broke when Dennis gave away his gaming systems. I wanted to smack him up along side the head when he was clueless. And the angels... they scared me pretty bad sometimes as well.
This is definitely one of the best non-super hero graphic novels I've read in a long time. While not a favorite of the level of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, it's still a wonderful read and a must for any geek grappling between what they should do and what they want to do.
*Note: This book was won in the Goodreads.com First Reads Giveaway. I received a copy of this book without requirement of reviewing it, but I'm glad to be able to do so anyway.
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