Monday, January 5, 2015

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff | Book Review

Guy in Real Life
(Really, the book is only about as interesting as this cover.)

So this guy, the titular guy, who is named Lesh, is a jerk in real life.

I think that's what kept me from really enjoying this book.  Guy in Real Life is told from three points of view:  Lesh (I felt like he had more chapters than the other two), Svetlana (Lesh's love interest), and Svvetlana (Lesh's character in an online video game).  You may have noticed the similarity between Lesh's love interest's name and his character's name.  This is because he gets a crush on Svetlana and then goes home and creates a female avatar with a similar name.  Are you feeling a little creeped out by that?  It's not just me?

Lesh is a self-described "metal" guy who wears all black clothing and has a general f***-off attitude and hangs out with other kids who dress & act in such a way as to ward off others.  About half the other teens in his usual social circle smoke pot too.  Not saying pot is inherently a negative, but I think we can all agree that it's not a positive.  Not in high school.  Svetlana is nearly the polar opposite.  She's into rpg gaming and wears hippie clothes and eats healthy and likes to sew.  At one point Lesh actually realizes that Svetlana is probably too good for him.

There were quite a few things that really kind of broke my faith with the book.  First off: neither of the main characters is likable.  Lesh is definitely unlikable.  He even realizes that, and points it out.  But even though he realizes that he's not likable, he does nothing to change the situation!  There's zero character growth.  Svetlana isn't much better.  Yeah, she's a good student and into gaming instead of drugs, but she's not terribly nice.  She's kind of judgmental of her friends.  She's definitely not nice to her family.  And she's pretentious.  Like Lesh, she also realizes these things about herself and does nothing to change!

Another thing that confused me about the book:  the chapters narrated by Svvetlana, Lesh's avatar in an online game.  At first I thought that we'd find out that Svetlana was also playing the game and their avatars would meet and hang out online and then they'd make a real world connection.  But Svetlana never plays the game.  So I'm not sure what the author was trying to accomplish with these chapters.  There's not many of them, but they felt entirely unnecessary.  

And finally, there's a weird maybe-homophobic vibe going on... Like, the author barely grazes the issue that Lesh is playing this online game as a female character when he himself is very much a guy.  Near the end, Lesh is asked about it by a friend... "Do you like girls, Lesh?  Or do you want to be a girl?"  Lesh doesn't answer... the question is left hanging at the end.  And there's absolutely no commentary on that issue in the rest of the book.  However, there is plenty of evidence to support Lesh being straight.  So I'm not sure why that issue is so lightly touched upon and then left hanging there at the end.

I don't know... I feel like I should have liked this book a lot more than I did.  If you'd talked to me after chapter 1, I'd have been much more enthusiastic.  The book really starts off strong, reading kind of like an Andrew Smith or Chris Lynch book.  But then it kind of devolves about the same time the first Svvetlana chapter happens.  Has anyone else read it?  What did you think?  Did I miss something?

*I own my copy of Guy in Real Life.

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