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Level Up Paperback – June 7, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Yang, writer-artist of National Book Award finalist American Born Chinese, writes this magical-realist tale of Asian-American parental pressure and video-game escape, leaving the art to up-and-comer Pham. Dennis Ouyang struggles with the burden of his dead father's orders that he study hard, go to med school, and become a gastroenterologist. When Dennis, inspired by four mysterious angels, gives up his passion—video games—and buckles down to his studies, he befriends three fellow second-generation students and begins to make a place in med school. But a crisis in confidence reveals the true nature of his guardian angels, and the real source of his father's dreams for his only son. Pham's watercolors can be charming, but his primarily gray and brown palette gets visually monotonous; thankfully, his work increases in energy as the plot does. Yang's familiar story of immigrant striving and filial rebellion gets just enough juice from its connection to arcade culture. A bravura storytelling and visual twist near the end brings together the plot's several strands. A minor work from Yang, but a welcome introduction to Pham, whose own upcoming First Second graphic novel, Sumo, looks promising. (June)
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“Deliciously imaginative . . . uproariously funny . . . A book so good, it’s hard not to fall back on reviewers’ clichés.” ―The New York Times
“A manifesto for everyone who's ever wrestled with the expectations of their family, their friends, and their society (and who hasn't?), and it's ultimately both humane and inspiring.” ―Boing Boing
“A piquant, multilayered coming-of-age fable for the wired generation.” ―Kirkus Reviews--This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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I read this book in one late-night sitting. At the end, I felt glad to have met these characters and explored their lives. Video games are rarely the subject in good literature, or even a good story, but this makes an exception. A must-read for anyone who has lived their teenage years trying to escape parental expectations through video games.
So much to like in Level Up - the often hapless main character Dennis Ouyang, the strong female characters Ipsha and Kat, the four angels who take over Dennis' life, and the controlling presence of his father from beyond the grave. Lots of humor in this book, from the medical classroom scenes (and Dennis' squeamishness) to the minimal, yet expressive, art of Thein Pham.
The beauty of this book is that it can be enjoyed and pondered by teens as they decide their futures and can also provide a great story and a chance for reflection for parents of teens. (Not to imply that this is a preachy book - it integrates its themes and messages in a subtle and entertaining way).
I highly recommend Level Up!
Most recent customer reviews
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