Level Up - Gene Luen Yang, Thien Pham This is my second graphic novel that I've read by Gene Luen Yang, the first being American Born Chinese and it does NOT disappoint. I first heard of this comic from a YouTube video a few years back and I knew, me being a gamer, I would love this tremendously. After I read American Born Chinese and saw how much I enjoyed that story, it was a given that I was going to LOVE this book~ Well, the other day, I'm browsing the library and, lo and behold, there it was! On the shelf! In all its glory! I was ecstatic! I grabbed the comic with a speed faster than Sonic the Hedgehog and checked it out! And, boy, am I glad I did. This comic just SCREAMS for my inner gamer to grab all the video games in my house and play them all at once! This book is such an amazing coming of age story that anyone who feels trapped in their life can fully appreciate.

Gene Luen Yang is a fantastic story-teller... if a bit unconventional. However, I think because he steps out beyond the norm makes him a very unique story-teller in his own right. All of his stories have a message to them. There's always an underlying point he is trying to get across and he does it fairly well... most of the time. The message in this book is not so clear-cut and the comic suffers because of it. I think it's due to its length. The story felt short and I felt there needed to be a bit more in order for the message that he was trying to convey would have come across a bit more clearly. However, this is the only setback to the entire novel. Everything else about it was amazing! One of the best parts of this book is, of course, all the video game references! From Super Mario Bros. to The Legend of Zelda to even Pac-Man! It just pours all of the video game references all over you and if you are a gamer, like me, you will eat it up happily! The artwork is a bit cartoony but it works! For all the little jokes here and there, the artwork needed to be as cartoony as it was for it to actually make sense and I loved every minute of it.

The characters were a lot of fun to read about! The main character, Dennis, is a bit of a slacker and chooses to play more video games than to actually work hard at anything. He's goofy and a nerd but also tends to be very charming. He goes through so much growth by the end of the book that you are just cheering him on! You WANT to see him succeed in whatever he does. It's amazing! Kat, a friend of his, is badass in every sense of the word! She won't take anyone's crap and works hard for what she believes in. Ipsha, his first friend in college, is smart and caring. She wants to please her family more than anything. She's a lot like Dennis in that sense. He wants to please his father so he wants to do whatever it takes, even if it means putting aside his own happiness for it. Hector, another friend, is the perfect example of a person on the wrong track making a comeback and proving that he CAN make it in this world. I literally have nothing bad to say about these characters because they were all so colorful and fun to watch! I enjoyed them in everything they did. Man, what a riot they were!

What can I say? I love this book! This comic is one of the best I have read this year and I could continue to read this for years to come because it is THAT good! As I said, the message it is trying to convey isn't done the best as it should have and might leave the reader feeling confused. (It's kind of sending mixed messages.) But I don't think that it ruins the reading experience in any way! There's so much more to this comic that you can find it enjoyable regardless! For the humor, for the art style, for the concept, for whatever! It's just that good! If you are a gamer, I know you will definitely enjoy this. If you like graphic novels, read this book! If you're just curious and want to see what it's about, then read it! I think everyone and anyone will be able to enjoy this read. I know that I am going to keep a look out on anything else Gene Luen Yang creates because he is proving to be a pretty awesome person!