Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Book Review: In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak

Goodreads Description :

Fifteen-year-old math prodigy Seth Gordon knows exactly what he wants to do with his life—play video games. Every spare minute is devoted to honing his skills at Starfare, the world's most popular computer game. His goal: South Korea, where the top pros are rich and famous. But the best players train all day, while Seth has school and a job and divorced parents who agree on only one thing: "Get off that damn computer." Plus there's a new distraction named Hannah, an aspiring photographer who actually seems to understand his obsession.

While Seth mopes about his tournament results and mixed signals from Hannah, Team Anaconda, one of the leading Korean pro squads, sees something special. Before he knows it, it's goodbye Kansas, goodbye Hannah, and hello to the strange new world of Korea. But the reality is more complicated than the fantasy, as he faces cultural shock, disgruntled teammates, and giant pots of sour-smelling kimchi.

What happens next surprises Seth. Slowly, he comes to make new friends, and discovers what might be a breakthrough, mathematical solution to the challenges of Starcraft. Delving deeper into the formulas takes him in an unexpected direction, one that might just give him a new focus—and reunite him with Hannah.

Title: In Real Life
Author: Lawrence Tabak
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Romance
Format: Paperback/E-book
Pages: 288 pages
Publisher:Tuttle Publishing
Source: Dymocks & Netgalley


When I first saw this on NetGalley i knew I had to try and request this and after reading a couple of chapters I went out to get the physical book (since it was already out) as its THAT GOOD! Its like this book has everything I love! Gaming, realistic and relatable teen along with a hint of romance and a hella lotta teen awkwardness.

15 year old Seth is a math genius and an avid gamer, is one of the best Starfare (i believe its a parody to StarCraft) gamer in the US. Like many teenagers he has a lot of commitments like school, a part time job, hobbies, chores, and maybe even a girlfriend? For Seth gaming is not just a hobby but a passion. He always dream of getting signed by the top teams in South Korea and train with the pro. However things aren’t as what it seems when he learns the true reality being a pro gamer with sponsors and endorsement, competitive team mates, the large pay checks and even the fame. Through the book follow him as he juggles all his commitments and parents’expectation while trying to get drafted by Team Anaconda as a professional eSport player in Korea.

I was hooked on this book from page one and its one of the few books that I went out and got a physical copy after getting a review from NetGalley as it was a book I had to own on my shelve. I enjoy the cast of characters, the pacing of the story and even the reality of both the eSport and Asian entertainment industry.

I like how the story was paced out and how things weren't a bed of roses but a rose bush of thrones. The writing was realistic, fun and light hearted while hitting some serious issues like the rise to fame and even one of the most realistic teenage lives I’ve ever read in a book.

I rarely find a YA even in the contemporary genre where it shows a teen with a lot of commitment as from my life as a teen and a student we have a heck loads of commitment from doing well in school to extra curriculum, chores and maybe even a part time job. In fact Seth’s literally a guy version of me as a teen as like Seth  had to juggle a long list commitment in high school leaving me with little time for leisure including gaming (which my parents till this day cringe and grit their teeth with disapproval).

Speaking of gaming while I'm not an avid fan of the genre of games Seth plays (not to mention I'll probably suck at it) I really enjoy how the book touch on eSport which is a really big thing Korea taking out football size arenas for tournament. I do wish we get more of how the game plays but then it might just get confusing and let's face it, this is a book not a Starfare 101 manual.

While this is a coming of age story about Seth realizing his true passion might not be gaming or that dreams aren't what it seems, I do enjoy the the hint of romance and dare I say it gives the story some fluff that will make me smile and awe at the cuteness. Seth's friendship and budding romance with Hannah was sweet and well pace out and I love watching as he slowly but surely falls for her.

Also I enjoy how the author portrayed the Korean/Asian culture in a way where he didn't over stereotype it as well as did his research.

I also love the sibling relationship between Seth and his brother Garret and the only flaw of the story I can think of was the parents where the book did the ‘typical YA thing’ which was to write off the parents saying that one’s in a secluded location where you can’t contact with a mobile phone or that the other is away on a business trip so is rarely at home... well at least there is a decent reason why they are out of the story . Even so there are some good adult figures in the game like Song who mentors Seth, helps build his other interest that is math and is like his adopted father figure while in Korea. In fact the Math element here was really cool, reminding me a bit of An Abundance of Katherine without the crazy amount of footnotes.

Lastly this book tackles a topic I wish more books tackle that was Seth being thrown into the 'suddenly forced to grown up world' and be an adult. While yes this is a topic that is more of you need to experience it instead of read it but seeing from Seth POV of him forced to mature and be independent is both refreshing and something touch close to home for me making me wish I read this years ago before I left home to come to Australia.

Seth character and narration was what made the book for me. I love his snark yet smart alec comments and all the crazy yet random fantasy he dreams of that is NOT in a SICK sexual way but like in a cute and maybe impossible even for reality way like what he'll do when he get his first paycheck or how he'll surprise Hannah. Long story short, this boy has one crazy head and to compare it its like reading a little brother's diary that you lost temptation to. Also he is highly intelligent and quick thinking not to mention down to earth kid who don't let fame get to his head. Seriously the best thing about Seth is his character development where he handles situation like being troll/ bullied by competitors, rude team mates and all his commitments maturely. Mostly what I like was that when he realize that things aren't as great as it seems, he's at least honest with himself and moves on.

Overall this is definitely a book I'll recommend if you are a gamer,  if you are not a gamer, if  you are interested in/ like the idea of gaming or if you want a realistic and refreshing male POV narration. A great coming of age story with a hint of romance and a heck lotta gaming. Also if you're looking for a book to recommend/gift to a guy friend/ brother to check.

This is one of the best and more underrated books I've read and I'm looking forward to reading more of Lawrence Tabak writing.

Recommend: Fans of John Green's An abundance of Katherine, Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and James Dashner's Eye of Mind series (review here) and Laurinda by Alice Pung (Review here).

Ohhhhh... What's this?? top shelve approved??? WTF IS THIS???

Well I decided to make a 'stamp' of approval for books that i enjoyed and will highly recommend. Long story short if I love the book that I highly recommend it will have the 'stamp of approval' deserving to be placed on the top shelve.

Since we're talking about gaming I have a new section called RowGames where I review and discuss some games I recently been playing. I mainly play PC games, currently playing Life is Strange and recently gotten Gone Home so will probably be reviewing that soon. Also I just downloaded a bunch of gaming apps on my iPad so i might also review a few mobile games if I enjoy it.

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