I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 27th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story in the vein of Rainbow Rowell and John Green, about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.
It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.
But they don't.
This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren't in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.
Here’s the thing: if you write a book about nerdy characters who are into geeky pastimes like gaming, I’m probably going to read that book. Simply put, when I read the blurb of Guy in Real Life, I knew I was reading this. Overall, I did enjoy myself, though I may not be able to clearly articulate why. However, I do have a couple reservations.
As an occasional gamer, I absolutely adored the view this book gave on the gaming world. There’s MMORPGs and Dungeons & Dragons… characters who are obsessed with them. I love MMORPGs. There’s something so addictive about them – and the addictive quality definitely extended to this story. I just kept wanting to read everything. Part of the story is even told from the perspective of the avatar in the game. I can’t even express how wonderfully unique that was. And although I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, I loved getting a view of that world as well. It’s something that gets such stereotypes, but really, the people who play it are super creative and thoughtful. It’s just another method of storytelling. How Svetlana creates these stories and the art around them definitely intrigued and engaged me.
I’m a bit torn about the main characters, Lesh and Svetlana. The story is told from both their perspectives. Lesh is a passively rebellious metalhead, and Svetlana is a reclusive “I-do-what-I-want” artist / dungeon master. I definitely related more to Svetlana. She’s mildly obsessive compulsive, I would argue, and some of her compulsions I definitely could identify with. I didn’t like Lesh’s point of view as much. I disliked how he put Svetlana on a pedestal and basically is instantly in love with her. The extent to which he obsessively thought about and stared at her was borderline creepy – and in my opinion, not extremely realistic. I did not really get swept up in their romance. Though at times they were sweet, I did feel like it was on the instalove side of the spectrum, despite the blurb implying it’s a “slow burn” romance, and Lesh’s hot-cold attitude towards Svetlana depending on whether his friends were around really pissed me off. I feel like Svetlana deserved so much more than that. But on the whole, they both have real high school experiences, with all the stereotypes and backstabbing involved. It was a good “slice of life” kind of story in that sense – especially since I could identify with their gaming hobbies.
What I’m definitely 100% not okay with (and plays a major role in lowering my rating) is how this book continually used “faggot”/”fag”/”gay” as slurs to insult characters. I wrote a whole post about my thoughts on this while I was still reading this book. The thing is, I know it’s a part of the gaming subculture, but it’s still not okay. I whined and moaned each time Lesh or one of his friends called each other by one of these slurs. But more than anything I hate that nothing was done aside from that – they were just passed off as okay. No consequences. Even though there are also LGBT characters in this book. It’s not that hard to be respectful. It’s not hard to imagine that there would be a (realistic) character who would step in and say, “No, that’s not okay.” In total, this happened 5 times, and each time was extremely painful for me.
At a certain point, however, Guy in Real Life takes quite a surprising turn. I did not expect this particularly plot twist – thought we were just going par for the course of amusement in a slice of life story. Instead there was a darker edge to this plot twist. Now I generally like the idea of the twist View Spoiler »as indeed, if you’re online and not careful about obscuring your identity, you could be stalked and targeted by predators, creepy as it may sound, « Hide Spoiler but I don’t like how quickly that was all resolved again. I feel like Svetlana was wayyyy too easily forgiving of Lesh. She made him work for it a little, but then was all fine with that. I’m not really comfortable with that. View Spoiler »This guy was freaking obsessed with you to the point of impersonating you online, leading to a predator ambushing you in real life. If this happened to me I would be scared to death, no longer feeling safe in my home (where that predator sent presents!!!), be disgusted, and want nothing more to do with this guy. « Hide Spoiler I just didn’t like how this was brushed off. That was NOT okay.