Level Up - Review

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, Art by Thien Pham
Publication date: 7 June 2011 by First Second
ISBN 10/13: 1596432357  |  9781596432352

Category: Young Adult Fantasy/Graphic Novel
Keywords: Video games, angels, Pac-Man, college life
Format: Paperback Graphic Novel

Kimberly's review: 

Dennis Ouyang, a wandering teenage boy finds his one passion in life- to play video games. And he's pretty damn good! After his father's death, Dennis starts ONLY playing video games and finds himself kicked out of college in his junior year. 

Suddenly, four small angels turn up to help him clean, study and focus on his destiny--to get into medical school and become a gastroenterologist. And then things get... weird. Of course we all think these angels are awesome, and they are! Aren't they? They do seem to get really mad when Dennis wants to study with his friends...

This is a wonderful story and a very quick read. The artwork is well done, the colors and timing laid out perfectly. The story unfolds slowly. What teenager doesn't live in their parents' expectations? And the references to gaming is well laid out, accenting the story nicely. There are a lot of false starts for Dennis, and Game Overs, but Dennis never seems very angry or bitter. He's merely trying to navigate his destiny, if that's what it really is, and he begins to question why. 

His dad is gone, but not his intentions. We all experience the pressure of parents' expectations that are so engrained in us, they become our own and the lines blur as to who wanted it first. There are no easy choices in life and this goes for Dennis' world as well.

Yang's story is touching. I was rooting for Dennis the whole way. And Pham's artwork is minimalistic, and well done. I especially liked the facial expressions on all the characters in every scene, they said something about that moment. The ending is fantastic. It's surprising sometimes how things work out.

Visit the author online at http://geneyang.com, and follow him on Twitter @geneluenyang. Kimberly read this for the Diversify Your Reading Challenge. Find out more at http://www.diversityinya.com/challenge.