Review: Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

level up

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, illustrations by Thien Pham

As a child, Dennis was forbidden from playing video games.  When his father died, he played them all the time.  He was even good enough to consider playing on the professional circuit.  But that was before THEY showed up.  Four cute little angels with plenty of attitude and a lot of bossiness seemed to know exactly what Dennis should be doing with his life, and it certainly was not video games.  Instead, they pushed and insisted in his father’s name that he start studying hard and then go to medical school.  But will Dennis find happiness there?  Or will he return to his love of gaming?

Yang captures the tension between following your own dreams and following those of your parents.  The four angels serve as universal parental voices, insisting that the future path is set and that one must fulfill one’s destiny.  The writing is infinitely readable, down-to-earth and yet striking.  The book wrestles with important themes, using the graphic format to lighten things but still looking deeply at the choices that shape a life.

Pham’s illustrations are filled with simple lines, washes of color, and often have a play of light and dark backgrounds in different frames on a page.  But if one looks at the illustrations, they are well rendered, interesting and far more than the simple lines may originally seem.

This book has teen and gamer appeal galore.  Before I got to read it myself, my husband and two sons had to read it first.   Both the theme of video games and the graphic format made it impossible for them to pass up.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

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