Review: “In Real Life” by Lawrence Tabak

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by NetGalley free of charge in return for an honest and unbiased review. This book is scheduled to be released on November 11, 2014 by Tuttle Publishing.

I consider myself to be a “gamer”.  Having played endless games of River Raid and Keystone Capers on my Atari 2600 and more games of Super Mario Bros. in my youth than I can even count, it’s a hobby that has just stuck with me throughout the years.  When I spotted Tabak’s “In Real Life” on NetGalley, I was excited.

A male protagonist?
A serious lack of vampires, witches, fairies, or any of the other usual suspects that plague YA Fiction these days?

Cool!  I’m there.

What strikes me most about this book is that it feels authentic.  I don’t know the first thing about professional gaming and somehow I don’t think that watching “The Wizard” at least a thousand times as a kid qualifies me as an expert.  Lawrence Tabak, it appears, has done his research.  Everything about this book comes across as real and believable.

Main character Seth Gordon is a math prodigy with one goal, to become a pro Starfare player and join up with one of the top teams in South Korea.  In this modern coming of age tale, however, Seth soon comes to realize that the reality of going pro doesn’t exactly mesh with the idealized fantasies he’s been clinging to.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It’s got a great cover (yes, covers count for something), refreshing characters and an honest feel.  One of the minor criticisms I have with the book is that I wish there were a few more obstacles for Seth in his road to success and with his relationship with Hannah.  Furthermore, I wish that Tabak had delved a little more into Hannah’s past.  She is such an interesting character, I would almost love to see a spin-off book that revolves around her.  Finally, without spoilers, I felt as if there needed to be more of a sacrifice on Seth’s part at the conclusion of the book.  Overall, things just seems to work out too well for him and with ease.

These are minor issues, though, and should not deter you from reading this wonderful debut.

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