Friday, January 20, 2012

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, with art by Thien Pham

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, with art by Thien Pham, is a graphic novel about an Asian-American boy and his father's expectations. Dennis Ouyang loves video games, but his strict father always emphasizes the importance of academics and discourages Dennis from gaming. When his father dies a week before his high school graduation, Dennis goes out and purchases his first-ever gaming system. The rest of the graphic novel shows Dennis' internal struggle between his own love of gaming, and his desire to live up to his father's dreams for him. Can he succeed in medical school? Or should he follow his own dreams and make a career out of gaming?

I picked this up because I have fond memories of discussing Yang's American Born Chinese with my advanced children's lit class in grad school the year it won the Printz award. The two graphic novels have several similarities -- both deal with the Asian-American experience, and both contain just a few magical or mystical elements (in Level Up, four angel-like creatures appear at a critical moment to influence Dennis' future). I enjoyed Level Up about as much as American Born Chinese, though the art in Level Up is not as eye-catching.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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