Guy In Real Life
By Steve Brezenoff
Balzer + Bray, 2014. 385 pages. Young Adult
When Lesh's and Svetlana's worlds collide—literally—one night in Saint Paul, Minnesota, what begins as an accident turns into friendship. Lesh and Svetlana can't be more different: Lesh's a sophomore, a metal junkie, and an MMORPG player; Svetlana is educated, a senior, artistic, and a dungeon master for her school's failing Dungeons and Dragons-esque group. Mutual wariness gives way to trust when Lesh thwarts one of Svetlana's lecherous suitors at lunchtime, and a tentative, awkward relationship begins to form between the two. It's not long before Lesh creates a lithe, silver-haired, female elven avatar on the MMO he's been playing—an avatar that looks like his new friend—whom he promptly names "Svvetlana," with double vs. And when the real Svetlana invites Lesh to join her "party" for her new tabletop campaign, their relationship kicks into high gear. But how long can Lesh keep his "guy in real life" status secret from his new MMO friends? And worse, how long can he keep his fantasy Svvetlana secret from the real one?
It's no secret that I love novels about video games and gamers, but regardless of the geeky content, Guy In Real Life definitely ranks in my top five favorite books of 2014 (so far). Both Lesh's and Svetlana's voices have been lovingly—and believably—rendered here, and both characters are equally witty and empathetic. The novel's a charming, awkward, and gentle look at first love, gender identity, and growing up. For readers who enjoyed Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl (St. Martin's Griffin, 2013), this is an obvious next step.