Doctorow, Cory & Jen Wang. In Real Life. 2014.


Anda, a teen who is part of a gaming guild, is encouraged to join a multi-player online game Coarsegold by an adult mentor who wants a larger female representation within the game. Anda becomes Kalidestroyer, a tough warrior who quickly develops a kick-ass persona who is noticed by other gamers, and is much different in looks and personality than she is. She is recruited by another player to earn real money by achieving certain goals within the game, and during one of her quests she meets gold farmers, avatars for gamers who are illegally collecting wealth to be sold to other players. Anda befriends one of the farmers and finds out he is a Chinese youth who works many hours with low pay and no health insurance. Anda tries to help her new online friend Raymond, but realizes the issue is larger and more complex than she originally thought. What options are available to them, and how can they convince others in their real and online worlds to fight for change?

This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated with a color palette that helps the reader merge in and out of the real and online world. When Anya is in her real world, the colors are a muted brown with different hues of earth colors verses the brighter jewel tones of the Coursegold world. The art panels are varied with a standard layout for Anda’s real world, and then utilizing engaging splash and spread panels when the online world is being represented. There is no mistaking that this book is definitely a “message” story, for the introduction spells out the dilemma Anda will be facing in her gaming world.