Off and on in my graphic novel and First Second researching, Level Up by Gene Luen Yang has come up. Yang is the author of American Born Chinese, the Boxers and Saints series as well as numerous other books and graphic novels. I had a passing interest in this book, but it was not first on my to be read list. Thursday night I was walking home, my path taking me past the library. I had a few minutes, went to their young adult graphic novel section and grabbed three books. Then saw this one. Oh. Well. Since it is here….
What was I expecting? Not this. I did not expect that four angels would come down from high and somewhat guilt our narrator Dennis into not playing his believed video games and get into medical school. I did not expect four friends to have different values and goals and yet, be the perfect friends for Dennis. I did not expect his father to play as large of a role as he did; especially after his death. I did not expect an old college buddy to become, Big T whom the ladies loved and makes money off video games, I did not expect a class assignment that required a “Number Two” to be put in a sample bottle, I did not expect the not-so-subtle idea of multiple colonoscopies. I did not expect this book to be as deep and thought provoking as it was.
This is an interesting story with odd, realistic, but not fully “fleshed out” illustrations that work for the story. Thien Pham has a style that is both oddly calming, but also keeps you on your toes. I did expect that it was going to be an experience that everyone will have based on their own biases and background