Review: Guy in Real Life by Steven Brezenoff

Guy In Real LifeSource: HarperTeen/Edelwiess – I received this in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: –
Edition: eARC, 400 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Purchase: AmazonBarnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases

From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don’t.

This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other’s lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn’t belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren’t in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.

Guy in Real Life and I got off to a very rocky start…so rocky that I almost did what I never do and DNFed it. I was frustrated and irritated, posted rants on goodreads and twitter….and then it got better. I’m not going to lie it took me until about 69% before I could safely say that this was going to be at least a 3 star read…and in that last 21% of the book it managed to change my attitude so I’m glad I stuck with it.

Why all of the issues? Okay, I’m a gamer. I play video games of all sorts, including MMO’s (I was even addicted to them at one point), so I had issues with authentic feel of the gaming portion. The in-game narration does not reflect an actual game-play scenario, and it kind of confused me. I’m also into RP and I was super excited to see it in the book, but like the above issue it doesn’t actually detail too much of ‘fun’ that is had with the people involved instead of the story. The joy of RP is how much a planned story can change because one idiot (or genius) in your group decides he’s going to try to be a hero and gets in over his head. It’s about the witty banter between players and how quickly you get absorbed into the story, making it more than just a group of geeks sitting around a table. But I digress (seriously, sorry for waxing poetic there), the book has these sections as more of a narrative as well and when you do get to see the players it’s more toward progressing story than showing the actual ‘fun’ of it. Then adding onto that I had issues with a lot of the characters in this to begin with.

So why the 4 stars? It gets better, I promise! I’ll be honest the issues I had were sort of because I went in expecting a similar experience to actual real life and well…all of the in game stuff is written more like a fantasy novel, which odd modern language, than a game where you have people spamming the same attacks, stealing your kills, or dancing in the middle of the town square in nothing but their underwear.  But once I got past the preconceived notions I began to appreciate it more for what it was. The narration for the games was actually really done and while some of it didn’t really fit well in a ‘game’ standpoint it was entertaining. The characters improved, or I should say grew.

Lesh, starts off in a spot that I honestly did not like him for. He says some pretty stupid things that sent me into a rage…but he gets better. He deals with falling for a girl who doesn’t quite fit into his social situation and honestly does not handle it well, though I suppose he gets points for actually trying. His friend Greg is a top notch douche, the sad things I happen to know a gamer exactly like Greg (to the point where I pictured him as the character), so other than complaining about his overall excessive use of ‘fag’, ‘gay’. and ‘faggot as insults and slurs…there isn’t much else to complain about, because he’s as real as it gets for me. (Unfortunately). Svetlana is a bit of an oddball. She loves making her own clothes, listening to a certain icelandic singer, and being the dungeon-master in an RP. She’s the only one I didn’t hate in the beginning, because I understood her better than the others.

So now to wrap this long review up! Guy in Real Life does have a slow start, but I honestly do believe that as long as you go in knowing it’s going to be a bit different then you should be able to pick up on how good is a lot quicker than I did. It’s a nice little piece of the geek world and if it manages to get a few more people interested in RPing, LARPing, or playing MMOs then why not? I definitely say give it a try. It may not be for everyone but I can honestly see this one making its way onto someone’s favorites list.

4 stars

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3 Responses to Review: Guy in Real Life by Steven Brezenoff

  1. Christy says:

    I know how you feel. That’s why it’s so hard for me to DNF, because just maybe that last 21% might make up for everything. I’m not really into that stuff, but the story still sounds good.

  2. lab1990 says:

    I’m glad you were able to push through and found this to be an overall enjoyable book. I don’t know a lot about gaming, but books that deal with “geeky” things are always interesting to me. 🙂


  3. Greg says:

    I’ve seen this one around a few times and was wondering about it… the whole gaming thing seemed interesting , I’d like to see more books like this. Sounds like he doesn’t quite capture the spontaneity of RP’ing maybe, but glad it gets better towards the end. I may give this a try at some point…

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