Level Up - Gene Luen Yang, Thien Pham *4.6 Stars*

Scorecard: (Out of 10)
* Quality of Writing - 10
* Pace - 9
* Plot development - 8
* Characters - 9
* Enjoyability - 9
* Insightfulness - 10
* Ease of Reading - 10 (finished it in way less then an hour)
* Photos/Illustrations - 8
Final Score: 73/80 = 91%

*WARNING: This book contains discussions of death and medical procedures that are a bit...gross.

*The Gush*

This is a meaningful story that has multiple facets. There are parts that resonated with me during my reading, there are parts that will mean more to me other times I read it, and there are aspects of the book that don't resonate with me but will with other readers. In short, this is a book that will mean different things to different people at different times. It can simply be a funish, interesting read but it is a very deep book and you can come away with a lot of thoughts to work through.

The main character is a young boy, Dennis Ouyang, who we watch grow up. He never got to play video games as a child, as his parents particularly his father, pushed him to become a medical doctor. Specifically a gastroenterologist (someone who works with issues of the stomach, intestines, liver, and other organs connected with them) but when his father dies while he is still young, Dennis goes out and buys a gaming system and begins his love affair with video games.

This I understand very well. I can count the number of times I played the Original Nintendo system on one hand (because I was visiting other people's houses then) and we got a Playstation by a fluke. We had maybe three games, none of which I liked. Then a friend introduced me to Final Fantasy IX and I've been hooked ever since. When I graduated from college, my mother said: "Well now you'll stop playing video games" and I could only shake my head. Video games don't rule my life as this character allows them to but they are one form of entertainment I enjoy and luckily my husband feels the exact same way.

Needless to say, I understood some of what Dennis was dealing with and I could also understand in a small way, the pressure he felt from his mother and his father's 'angels' that were sent to put him on his 'destiny'. Watching him completely give up what he loved to please these manifestations of his father's will for him was sad, because he felt no connection to this 'destiny'. How he changes and both fights and gives into the weight of his father's ghosts is heartbreaking and yet very touching. The ending was surprising and very fulfilling.

I loved Yang's [b:American Born Chinese|118944|American Born Chinese|Gene Luen Yang|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317066615s/118944.jpg|114515] and while I was upset by the fact that he didn't illustrate the story, I like Thien Pham's drawing style because it reminded me of the rough graphic capabilities of gaming systems of the time. The book itself is set up like a game, from the cover that looks like an original Gameboy to the chapters called Levels and the first page with a start menu. With the drawings also harkening back to graphics of the day, it further works to build the connections to gaming.


*The Rant*

The biggest issue for me was the medical sections where they discussed what exactly the students studied when learning to be gastroenterologists. Anything to do with those areas of the body is by its very nature...messy. This is not for young kids, not only for that reason but also because younger children aren't going to understand the deeper meanings of this book and what it means to grow up.


This is a thought-provoking book that will speak to each reader on a different level. The story, characters, and setup of the book are all well thought out, interesting, and make the book an quick read but one that will stick with you for some time.