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Thistle
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Book #38 of 2016: In Real Life

In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



This book was unique in my reading experience: I loved it so much, yet I skimmed probably 25% of it. There were two plots in the story, but they both got nearly equal time, so I can't really label one a subplot. One part of the story was about a kid, a gifted math student, who was also gifted at playing an online game (Starfare in the book, based on Starcraft in real life). This teen was one of the best players in the US, and eventually one of the Korean professional teams recruits him. While this book was fiction, the author had two sons play in pro eGames, so it felt very, very realistic and accurate.

Even though I'm a gamer, going into this book I thought I might not enjoy it. These professional eSports, I just don't get them. It always seemed a little silly to me to try to make a videogame into a sport. But wow, this book showed me how serious places like Korea take it. Plus I got an interesting view of Korea from an outsider's perspective, and a look at some interesting math stuff, and other new-to-me things.

If the book had been about the gaming alone, I would say this was the best book I had read in a long, long time. Unfortunately the other plot didn't work for me. Romance. Yawn. While I fully believed start and growth of the relationship the main character had with his girlfriend, it bored me. I just do not care about a teenage boyfriend/girlfriend situation, the worries they have, having to deal with their families, all that. I can't fault the author for including that plot in the book (it's a YA book, so I'm not the target audience), it just completely and totally did not work for me.

I was worried at how the story would end, because there was only one way I could see him ending it. See, this kid loved the game he was so good at; no matter what else he was doing (school, work), he was counting the minutes until he could get home and log on. However, when the Korean professional team recruited him and he was required to play 12+ hours a day, six days a week, the fun went out of it for him (100% accurate, that happens to me even on short vacations when I do nothing but play all day). Plus there were serious issues with the team not wanting to accept him (for perfectly valid reasons -- as a blond American, he was getting a lot more publicity than even the more skilled players). So basically, the kid's dream of going off to play for a professional team was crushed by the reality of that. I was really, really worried the author would crap on gamers -- that he would end the book with something like "So Main Characters gets back together with Girlfriend and realizes that his life is better without Starfare," but luckily he didn't. The story ended with a completely open ending, not touching on the game at all. The reader can fill in for themselves if the kid ever played again or how he felt about the game going forward. I'm really thankful for that. It felt like the author was being both true to the story and respectful to gamers.

Even with the romance plot, I really enjoyed this book. It's very, very rare for me want to reread a book, but I would happily reread this one.
Tags: 2016 books, book review, book: in real life
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