Saturday, December 6, 2014

Book Review: "Guy in Real Life" by Steve Brezenoff

Lesh (his parents named him after Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead) is a high school sophomore who listens to a lot of heavy metal music, wears black all the time, and pretty much wishes he could disappear. Svetlana, a senior, is an artist who makes a lot of her own clothes, listens to Bjork and classical music, and is the dungeon master of a role-playing game involving a group of her friends.

One late night the two meet cute when Lana literally knocks Lesh off his feet—she hits the drunken boy with her bike while he and a friend are walking home from a metal concert. Lesh is instantly smitten; Lana is irritated that the mishap ruined a notebook with her drawings in it.

The two strike up an uneasy friendship, partially because Lana wants to avoid the son of family friends who has a serious crush on her. Lesh feels Lana is far too good for him, and his friends discourage him from getting to know her, but that doesn't dissuade him. He even allows her to convince him to join her role-playing game group, which causes some unease among her friends.

The thing is, Lesh has a bit of a secret. When he first met Lana he was so obsessed with her that he created a character in her image for an online role-playing game. And maybe he's been playing with the character, and attracting the attention of some other guys online. But how do you bring that up in conversation?

Guy in Real Life is a sweet, tremendously enjoyable read. I really liked both Lesh and Lana's characters, and thought that Steve Brezenoff did a great job getting you engaged in the plot very quickly. Even if you're not into gaming (which I'm not), the book didn't go too heavily into detail so it doesn't have limited appeal. While I found some plot points a little ambiguous, what I liked the best about the book is the refreshing way it looked at gender roles. No characters really fit into a particular stereotype, which is much more indicative of the world we're living in now versus the one I grew up in.

I'm really glad I heard about this book because it hit all of the right buttons for me. Once again, books like Guy in Real Life prove that the world of YA fiction is really thriving right now, and features authors just as worthy of acclaim as those writing "adult" fiction.

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