In Real Life

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
In Real Life Book Poster Image
Fun graphic novel about gamers makes strong political point.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In Real Life raises important questions about technology and economic equality. It shows how poor Chinese "gold farmers" are exploited by wealthier players and what might be done to improve their working conditions.

Positive Messages

In Real Life emphasizes that there are real people behind the avatars in online games and that you should not make assumptions about them based on how well they play the game. It also demonstrates that girls are both interested in and successful at gaming.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anda wants to succeed and impress others when she's playing Coarsewold Online. At first, she's interested only in winning, but she becomes genuinely concerned about the welfare of any player in China. She's an example of a skilled, yet compassionate, female gamer.


In Real Life contains depictions of online violence with guns, swords, bows and arrows, and other weapons. Because the scenes are mostly bloodless and clearly fantastic, it's unlikely that they would upset any but the most sensitive readers.


One or two uses each of "hell," "dammit," "bitch," and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In Real Life, written by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang, is a graphic novel about a teen girl gamer who learns lessons about working conditions in other parts of the world. It shows both the positive and negative aspects of online gaming and demonstrates that girls can be skilled and empathetic players. The language is generally mild (a few instances each of "hell," "dammit," "bitch," and "ass") and there's no sexual content or drugs and alcohol mentioned. Some scenes involve online violence with swords, rockets, and other weapons, but the action is clearly fantastic and unlikely to disturb most readers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChristikki May 10, 2020

Caught and kept my attention

The message of activism and organizing in the authors introduction wasvery unique for a YA GN. The themes in this book are quite sophisticated so early exposur... Continue reading
Adult Written byLindseyr8 November 29, 2018


My daughter said the art was good. There was some violence. Lots of language for a library book brought home by a 6th grader. Disappointed
Teen, 14 years old Written byangryduck September 25, 2020

The art was pretty but it had issues

The book was beautiful to look at bit towards the end it got a bit of a white savior trope which made me sad because it was a beautiful book!! If your kid wants... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bypotcakedog August 14, 2017
IN REAL LIFE is a great experience for any gamer. It delivers a powerful message about helping others that most people can relate to. The story is very captiva... Continue reading

What's the story?

High school student Anda loves to play the video game Coarsegold Online and is thrilled to be recruited for an elite band of female online warriors. But when she meets a young Chinese "gold farmer" who plays under harsh conditions for wealthier clients, she realizes that what happens in Coarsegold online can have serious real-world consequences.

Is it any good?

IN REAL LIFE is an exciting and heartfelt exploration of video-gaming and global economics that features a capable and caring protagonist. Both Anda and her online avatar are depicted as smart, competent, and ultimately kind. Jen Wang's dynamic layouts clearly convey the story and give momentum to the action scenes. Doctorow's plot emphasizes that collective action can lead to better working conditions and that the Internet can be a powerful tool for good.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about online gaming. Why do you think it's so popular with so many audiences?

  • What precautions should you take when interacting with strangers online?

  • Do young women face discrimination or harassment when they play online games?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels

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