Graphic Novel Review: Level Up

Graphic Novel Review: Level UpLevel Up by Gene Luen Yang
Published by Macmillan on June 7th 2011
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 160
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A New York Times Notable Children's Book (Young Adult) for 2011 Smackdown! Video Games vs. Medical School! Which will win the battle for our hero’s attention in Gene Luen Yang’s new graphic novel?

Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally. But four adorable, bossy, and occasionally terrifying angels arrive just in time to lead Dennis back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. It’s all part of the plan, they tell him. But is it? This powerful piece of magical realism brings into sharp relief the conflict many teens face between pursuing their dreams and living their parents’.

Partnered with the deceptively simple, cute art of newcomer Thien Pham, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized with American Born Chinese. Whimsical and serious by turns, Level Up is a new look at the tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.

I loved Level Up for a variety of reasons. I’ve always been a fan of graphic novels and have fallen in love with Gene’s stories and Liam’s illustrations. Having grown up surrounded by video games, but not really a gamer, I still felt a connection to the main character. Dennis is in college for something he doesn’t think he will enjoy, because of a promise he made to his parents and just when he is about to give up and commit his life to video games, four angels come and keep him going.

This book is really about finding yourself and what you want to do with your life. I feel like any person starting off college may think they want to do one thing and suddenly develop a passion and find opportunities in another. I loved the scenes where the angels show up and bully Dennis back into going to classes and how he tries to dodge the angels as he falls off his studies.

The illustrations are wonderful and I love the style, with the watercolors and the very basic character drawings. It definitely fits the story perfectly.

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