Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

I went into this book expecting a story about video games. I guess it is partly that, but it’s more about living your own dreams vs. living someone else’s dreams. And as is typical with Gene Luen Yang, the story is told expertly and the artist he’s chosen, Thiem Pham provides amazing art to go along with the story.

Dennis wants nothing more than a nintendo gaming system for Christmas when he’s a child. He’s fallen in love with the world of video games that he’s discovered and the nintendo has just become available. What he gets instead is a chemistry set. He’s super disappointed and to make matters worse, his dad tells him that video games are a waste of his time and that he needs to plan for his future. He has to make sacrifices.

When Dennis is about to graduate high school, his father dies, leaving things unsettled. Since his father isn’t there, Dennis hallucinates angels from a card that his father gave him as a child that plead with him to go to medical school to become a doctor, and so he does that, feeling guilty for not living up to his fathers dreams. But the question is, can Dennis ever be truly happy if he’s not living his life for himself…if he’s living it for someone else.

This really is a great question, isn’t it? How often do we make choices in life based on what we think others expect of us…how often do we make choices because it feels like it’s the proper thing to do, not the thing that we necessarily want to do. I think all of us do to an extent…whether it’s something small in life or whether it’s what we actually do with our lives. I know I do this on a daily basis. With little things and with big things. I think it’s important to at least acknowledge that.

The thing I love about Gene Luen Yang is that his books really do an excellent job of tackling the essence of human experience…whether that’s about racism, ethnocentrism, money or living for ourselves. And he does it so damn well. In such a relatable way. Can’t wait to see what Yang puts out next!

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01 2012

6 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    Love this review for sooo many reasons <3 For myself, I realized I was never going to be able to meet the expectations of certain people. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I loved them…I just couldn't be someone i'm not. And then I realized that if they truly cared for me…they would never expect me too. I think it's a battle everyone's faced at one point or another in their lives. Very poignant, and truly enjoyable post Chris :D

  2. 2

    Oh, nice. I didn’t even remember this book was out. I will have to check if my library has it. Great post, Chris!

  3. chrisa511 #

    Kelly 1: Glad you enjoyed the review :) It’s something that I think is HARD to realize, but it’s great when we do!!

    Kelly 2: Yes!! You have to get this one! Liked it a lot more than I thought I would!!

  4. 4

    YAY! I haven’t read this one because I feared it would not thrill me, but I think I may have been wrong. Will be adding this one to my collection and might even teach it in my Childrens Lit Class (for education majors).

  5. 5

    Here’s one of the things he’s doing next: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1595828117/ref=oh_o00_s00_i00_details

    And I can’t wait until it comes!

    And yep, sounds like I need to get my hands on this, too!

  6. K #

    A new Gene Luen Yang book is out?? Must. Get. It. Now. He is so absolutely brilliant.

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