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Guy in Real Life

Review

Guy in Real Life

GUY IN REAL LIFE by Steve Brezenoff may be one of the most unique novels I have ever read. Set to the backdrop of high school subculture, GUY IN REAL LIFE follows Lesh Tungsten and Svetlana Allegheny after they literally collide with each other in the early hours of the morning on a street corner in Minneapolis. That encounter then diverges into dual point of views, and the reader is introduced to their very separate and interesting lives.

Lesh is a metalhead, choosing to appear quite unapproachable in his black armor or shirts and trench coats. He has one close friend from childhood, Greg, who usually remains so immersed in online gaming, that they barely have conversations if Greg’s computer is in the room. To make his teenage life worse, Lesh’s parents are hardworking and misunderstanding. His father grounds him for most of the book.

Svetlana has an equal misunderstanding with her own parents. I would definitely say she’s the quirkier of the two. She spends most of her free time embroidering odd images onto her shirt (a bleeding eyeball is one example) or drawing pictures for the campaigns in her tabletop role playing game. However, of the two, she is the more secure. She’s comfortable in her subculture and outsider status at her high school. I loved her fearlessness and her strength. Whereas Lesh was matter-of-fact about his life, Svetlana was proud of what she chose to do. Which is probably why she clashed with her parents most of the time. They struggled to understand her and she refused to try to make them.

The writing is so spot-on that I feel like I have an understanding of every character, even if I only was treated to the point of views of two.

What’s undeniable about this book is that it’s well-written. The writing is so spot-on that I feel like I have an understanding of every character, even if I only was treated to the point of views of two. The unique qualities of the characters extended to the plot as well. Lesh, after his literal run-in with Svetlana, struggles with his feelings for her. He knows they are as different as night and day and yet wants to spend time with her. After his grounding, he can think of no other way to do that than creating a character to look just like her in the online role-playing game Greg forces him to play. What follows is a very interesting discussion about being a presence online (an avatar) and being you in real life.

In my real life, I have no interest in those types of games, but it was so fascinating to read about them. Brezenoff clearly did his homework and writes the gaming world as if we the readers are there to observe.

Of course, gaming may be at the heart of the novel but there’s so much more to it. Eventually, the gaming becomes secondary to Lesh’s own interactions with Svetlana and he spends some time thinking about her in the game versus her in real life. It’s fascinating to see it all unfold.

The only thing I wish about this novel is that the grand point, which I think was reached pretty well in the end, would have come sooner. At almost 400 pages, this novel is quite massive, in my opinion. It dragged on in some parts. I didn’t particularly enjoy the back and forth between Lesh and his avatar “Svvetlana.” I think the point of that would have been made if Brezenoff had added one or two additional chapters with her at key parts of Lesh’s playing, instead of including it in every other chapter.

Besides that, I was pleasantly surprised at the ending. I loved that I had no idea where this novel was going but once I did finish, I felt like it was perfect. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I love when titles come into play in the story and how subtle it seemed until we were at the end. I loved how we learned more about these characters through their hobbies and the characters they played in their RPGs. It was a treat to get such a multifaceted novel and one with so much depth. I would urge anyone that may be interested in contemporary YA, or even just a different read, to pick this one up.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on June 11, 2014

Guy in Real Life
by Steve Brezenoff

  • Publication Date: May 27, 2014
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 0062266837
  • ISBN-13: 9780062266835