IN REAL LIFE by Lawrence Tabak


Age Range: 12 - 16
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Seth Gordon balances school, family and a girl against his goal of becoming a professional gamer.

Seth is obsessed with the PC game “Starfare,” enough so to be nationally ranked and well-respected in the gaming community. His real life isn't so great: He’s got divorced parents always on his case and a love life that's dead on arrival. The novel starts with his prepping for a national “Starfare” tournament, and the ball keeps rolling from there. A whole lot of stuff happens over the ensuing almost-300 pages, but what's missing is the crucial "therefore" connections; there's very little cause and effect here. Seth just goes through the motions while things continually happen to him, which is counterproductive in a book that’s built around a character who is supposed to be actively good at something. A romance is introduced late in the game, but it's severely undercooked. Seth is such a dolt that the heat never really arrives, and the girl he’s interested in is too aloof and underrepresented for readers to ever really get to know her. The romance becomes actively insulting to both Seth and readers with the book’s half-baked conclusion. Tertiary characters are erratically developed, doing what the author wants rather than what the story needs. The novel is simply dramatically inert. Readers will wait patiently for disparate elements to clash in interesting, surprising ways, but they never do.

A lengthy book that’s much less than the sum of its pages. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8048-4478-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Tuttle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014


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