Thursday, November 10, 2011

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

Book Jacket

 Dennis Ouyang has always struggled in the shadow of his parents' expectations.  His path is laid out for him: stay focused in high school, do well in college, go to medical school, become a gastroenterologist.  It may be hard work, but it isn't complicated...Until suddenly, it is.

Between his father's death, his academic burnout, and his deep (and distracting) love of video games, Dennis is nowehere near where his family wanted him to be.  In fact, he's just been kicked out of college.

And that's when things get...weird.

Four adorable--and bossy--angels, straight out of a sappy greeting card, appear and take charge of Dennis's life.  And so Dennis finds himself herded back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenternology.  But nothing is ever what it seems when life, magic, and video games collide.

With deceptively simple, cute art by Thien Pham, and a magical-realist plot that keeps you guessing up until the last moment, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized with American Born Chinese.  Whimsical and deadly serious by turns, Level Up is the next step in a powerful tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.


This graphic novel is nearly flawless.  I say nearly, but....I can't actually think of a flaw.  Level Up is a serious reflection on the complications of love between parents and children, and it is a hilarious story in which angels bring coffee and statues change shape.  The humor is both subtle (or in the background of the panel) or in-your-face, like the disgusting assignments that must be done in the name of med school.

I loved this book.  Anyone who has ever felt parental pressure, or has wondering what to do with their life, or has an imagination, or simply appreciates a dose of whimsy with their reality, will love Level Up too.

Five out of five extra lifes.

Release Date: June 2011
Reading Level: Ages 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL YAN

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