In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World Book Poster Image
YouTuber's heartfelt memoir recalls bullies, alcoholic mom.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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

Educational Value

Each chapter ends with advice and life lessons, from serious issues (alcoholic parents and bullying) to fun (first-kiss advice and tips on auditioning for reality shows). All the advice ties into Graceffa's personal experiences.

Positive Messages

You can overcome adversity. Work hard for what you want. Be gracious with people but still stand up for yourself. Deal with bullies. Be a good friend. Take big risks to follow your dreams.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Graceffa's an upbeat, positive guy who uses this book to help people who might face some of the same struggles he did. His dad, stepdad, and sister are supportive and nurturing. Though his mother battles alcoholism, she shows her love for him, and the book demonstrates how complex such a relationship can be. Most of the friends he makes at different stages in his life are supportive of him and his dreams.


Graceffa details verbal bullying at school, some emotional abuse at home, and gay taunts. In one instance, his mom grabs him roughly and he pushes her, though no one gets hurt. Two strangers kiss him without his consent.


A few scenes of kissing; one scene in particular described in detail, as it was his first kiss. Graceffa gives advice on how to prep for and get through a first kiss. Some references to making out but no detail. He provides a list celebrities he'd like to make out with.


Some name-calling in the sections about bullying, including "retard," "fag," and "whore." His sister tricks him into saying "f--k" to get him trouble. Other swearing is infrequent and usually is someone he's quoting, as Graceffa doesn't swear much: "bulls--t," "damn," "slut," "motherf--ker" (part of a drink name), "d--k," "bitch," "s--t," "boobs," and "a--hole."


Numerous products, places, and media are mentioned, including lots of references to favorite childhood movies, games, and food. These include, but aren't limited to, YouTube, Myspace, Twitter, World of Warcraft, Diddy Kong Racing, A Christmas Story, Halloweentown, Nickelodeon, The Amazing Race, Pokémon, Dunkin' Donuts, RuneScape, Kid Icarus, A Walk to Remember, Stepmom, About Time, The Notebook, and Twilight. He lists his favorite scary movies, many of which of very intense and gory: Silent Hill, Insidious, Signs, Ginger Snaps, and The Blair Witch Project.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Graceffa's mother smokes, but he advises readers not to. The book details his mother's alcoholism, especially from the point of view of a scared child and frustrated teen. He references his sister's occasional drinking, a stoner college roommate, and friends drinking too much and losing control at various points. He drinks some but knows when to stop, as his mother's drinking problem is always at the top of his mind. He engages in a little underage drinking and drinks socially once he turns 21 but only gets a little tipsy before stopping.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joey Graceffa's memoir, In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World, recounts the ups and downs of his childhood and recent success on YouTube and television. Each chapter ends with advice that runs the gamut from how to handle your first kiss to how to cope with an alcoholic parent. He also details personal issues such as bullying, coming out as gay, making and falling out with friends, and how to handle fame and online haters. Even though some of the subject matter is tough, Graceffa's bubbly personality makes it an engaging read. The only sexual content is some kissing, and there's little violence. Characters drink (some to excess, but not Graceffa) and swear a little, and his mom smokes, but Graceffa warns readers off it.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byyeetmyfeet June 29, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byJoeyGraceffaFan April 24, 2018

Helps those who don't have it

I loved this book because it helped me accept that I was gay too and that its ok and there is nothing wrong with it, if joey ever saw this I owe you my life for... Continue reading

What's the story?

Joey Graceffa details his journey from lead-paint-chip-eating tot (the contamination gave him a learning disability) to YouTube sensation. He opens up about dealing with his mother's alcoholism, the bullying he endured all through his school years, his childhood loneliness, and his eventual discovery of making short films, the latter of which led him to become a YouTube and reality TV star. At the end of each chapter, Graceffa offers advice to readers on how to handle problems or sticky situations. Graceffa's love for and connection to his viewers is clear, and the advice given in the book is useful for kids in similar situations with no one to turn to.

Is it any good?

Effusive and positive, YouTube star Joey Graceffa tells his life story like he's talking to you over lunch. Many people might roll their eyes when they hear of a memoir written by a 24-year-old, but Graceffa does a good job of drawing on his own life to offer advice and life lessons to kids who might struggle with similar situations. He gets real about his mother's drinking problem, his learning disabilities, and coming to terms with his sexual orientation. The language is very casual, with lots of parenthetical asides and exclamation points, which makes it a fun, easy read. Some portions of the book are more engaging than others. The sections on his childhood are riveting, but when he tries to make his first forays into dating sound more dramatic than they are, the narrative falls flat. Fans of his will love the behind-the-scenes stories of his friendships and adventures with other online stars. In fact, this memoir will appeal to his fans, while others who don't know much about him might not find it that interesting. Many kids who feel that other people don't understand what they're going through will connect with this book and find it helpful.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about online fame. What do you see as the ups and downs of having a lot of your personal life up for public viewing, as many YouTube stars do?

  • Do you have something you like to do that gives you refuge from your regular life? For example, making movies, writing, drawing, or sports? What about the activity helps you?

  • Do you think you know media stars even though you've never met them? Do you idolize them without thinking of them as real people, or do you think they're fakes putting on a different face for the media?

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