TITLE: “Level Up”
AUTHORS: Gene Luen Yang & Thien Pham
PUBLISHER: Square Fish
PUBLICATION DATE: July 19, 2016 (First Ed. 2011)
When I first received my copy of Level Up from one of my awesome PR contacts, I was pretty excited to take a look at it. The general story description seemed like it would be a lot of fun and fanning through the pages showed me that I was in for a treat art-wise. However, it took me a couple of weeks to actually finally find time to sit down and give it a read, but while I initially thought that this book would take me at least a couple sittings to get through, I actually finished the entire story in about an hour’s time! Whether that’s simply because the 160 pages of this young adult graphic novel go by quickly or because the story really draws you in, well…I guess I’d say it’s basically a combination of the two?
Level Up is a graphic novel written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Thien Pham that initially appeared back in 2011. The story just recently received a second printing courtesy of Square Fish and came to press this month. The story revolves around the life of Dennis Ouyang, a young man who struggles within the shadow of his parents’ expectations but yearns to make a life for himself. The death of his father led him to seek solace in video games – something his dad, who was a very hard worker, wouldn’t let him get involved with when he was a kid – and his academic career heads down a strong downward spiral. But, one day, after being kicked out of his university, he gets visited by four cutesy angels who tell him that it’s his destiny to go to college, get into med school, and become a gastroenterologist of all things!
For me, the 160 page story simply flew by, mainly because of its light and easy reading but also because every time I reached the end of one of its chapters I felt myself compelled by the story to push on. Dennis is easy to identify with because his struggles mirror so many of our own as we try to find out place in the world, and thankfully his story comes to life in beautifully drawn and colored panels. Dennis makes hard choices throughout the story and later he comes to some real, and possibly bittersweet revelations as to who these angels really are, but all of it wraps up nicely and leaves you thinking about how his tale relates to your own.
Although the book is clearly aged at young adults of about 12 to 18 years old, younger readers of a higher maturity level should have no problem picking this one up while adults should also find plenty to identify with in this story.
Currently, the book is on sale on Amazon for $6.34 in paperback and $16.56 as a hardcover, so any fans of the gaming culture who want a solid, thought-provoking and whimsical story to read ought to go pick it up now!