"In Real Life" by Lawrence Tabak Book Review

Tuttle Publishing

Release date: 11/11/2014

Soft Cover: 287 pgs

“In Real Life” by Lawrence Tabak it is a Young Adult fiction story about a young Kansas kid named Seth Gordon who has been gaming his whole life and hopes to make a career out of it and go pro. Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old math prodigy Seth Gordon knows exactly what he wants to do with his life—play video games. Every spare minute is devoted to honing his skills at Starfare, the world's most popular computer game. His goal: South Korea, where the top pros are rich and famous. But the best players train all day, while Seth has school and a job and divorced parents who agree on only one thing: "Get off that damn computer." Plus there's a new distraction named Hannah, an aspiring photographer who actually seems to understand his obsession. 

This is not the typical story where said kid works hard throughout the book, and eventually discovers love, friendship, all while achieving his dream. As the story takes place, Seth Gordon is already ranked #5 in the United States and has realistic shot of going pro. He trains/plays ritualistically to the point of cutting classes to get in as much time gaming as possible. He’s not the typical social high school outcast; he has his best friend Donald aka DTerra (DT) who also plays Starfare and is just as good but not top ranked good. However DT lives in another state. Because of his rank he does make some acquaintances with other gamers and of course attracts the attention of a rival, Stompz, who just will not give him a break when it comes to playing this game. Starfare is like StarCraft, it’s a real time strategy game that pits player(s) against player(s). The participants’ position and maneuver units and structures under their control to secure areas of the map and/or destroy their opponents' assets. The way Seth talks about playing Starfare is almost surreal. The walls melt away, whatever noise was there fades away, and he’s in another world of 3D textured terrains, flashing lights, shouting commands as if it were real life. And when he’s done it’s like he was pulled out of that world, dripping sweat and breathing heavy as if he was in a real life battle. It just makes you want to pick up a controller and do a marathon of your favorite game. The visuals for describe Seth’s gaming experience and the game itself are enough to sell on you what a gamer is or even sell you a game itself.   

For Seth school was and was not an issue mainly because he is such an incredibly gifted student in math that they had him not only take AP classes, but college courses as well. But it’s the fact that he’s skipping classes and slacking in grades to play Starfare is what really becomes an issue with his folks. Like most parents dealing with a teenager always requires negotiations to be the great motivator. While things with his folks are not perfect, his older brother Garrett is his one constant in his life. Whenever he needs advice Garrett is always the one he can count on to help him out, even though Garrett is away in college. The relationship with both parents differs, as each parent’s personality is completely different from each other. Mom is more laid back and into trying new things but stern, while dad is more like your hard-ass boss at work with the occasional soft spot. The difference in personalities of the parents really makes them unique. The parents tend to play really pivotal roles in the book, especially when major changes are happening in Seth’s life. 

While socially awkward in the beginning; the author really lets Seth shine through. Throughout the book you start to see Seth grow; especially when he meets Hannah, a NJ transplant. It’s not an immediate change from shy to confident. But you see that once he starts to click with someone he becomes more open with them, and with Hannah you see this become more apparent. While Hannah doesn't get or is interested in the pro gaming scene, the fact that she and Seth are so passionate about their hobbies that it’s what draws them together. Hannah is an aspiring artist/photographer and just has this encyclopedic knowledge of artists that it rivals Seth’s knowledge of gaming. The more and more you ready about Hannah and Seth together, the more it feels like a happy memory. From the should of, would of, could of; to the playfulness of relationship itself it’s like remembering the best memories of your life and Tabak really has you rooting hard for them. 

The curve balls in Seth’s life aren't these small insignificant trips to the supermarket. These are constant life changing events that really move the story along. It’s almost like you’re part of a documentary crew following this kid around as he tries to make it pro. From an opportunity to play in a televised championship tournament, to a chance to play with the best team in the world it’s like a roller coaster that you glad isn't stopping anytime soon. Tabak never misses an opportunity to really showcase how incredibly gifted Seth is at math. When Seth first boots up his computer for Hannah a screen pops about with a weird message, Seth explains that it has to a with trying to find the prime number and that he took part in this global study and if his computer finds the number it’s an achievement. He does this with the main cast of characters in Kansas, really let each person in Seth’s life be their own personality in the book. 

Tabak mainly wrote this book as a way to get his kids more interested in reading. He has 2 sons that are pro gamers themselves, and as you read the book you definitely feel like he fully understands the gaming scene and makes it relatable for everyone to comprehend. A book that uses gaming as its backdrop is very unique, because there aren't many books that do use it as well as he did. I barely found any boring parts or pauses. He really has a great sense of flow in the book that keeps you interested, intrigued, and invested. They way he describes the various settings in the book, whether it’s the strip mall in Kansas or the random club in Korea he gives just enough detail that reader can picture it themselves without being hit over the head. 

I really found this book to be entertaining and delightful. As I said before the author really gets you to care about what happens to these characters and rooting for Seth along the way. I would rate this book 5 stars, because it is one of those Young Adult books that doesn't just cater to younger audience that may not have gone through similar situations in life and treats it's audience as intelligent readers. "In Real Life" will be available to readers in time for Christmas nationwide on November 11, 2014. 

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