Guy in Real Life
By Steve Brezenoff
Expected publication May 27, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
When they collide on the street at 2:30 a.m., Lesh and Svetlana don't know each other. But they will. Little do they know what's in store for them after their fateful meeting, but they're about to find out.
I downloaded this galley because I like finding new contemporary YA. Sure, fantasy may be the majority of what I read, but I like a good contemporary story, too. Then, some bloggers whose opinions I trust started heaping praise on this title, so I became even more excited to read it.
What I love most about this is the dual narrative structure. I really liked seeing the story develop through both Lesh and Svetlana's eyes (I just have to take a moment and roll my eyes at their names - I'm sorry), though, interestingly, I feel we get to know Lesh much more deeply than Svetlana. Part of that may be due to Lesh's greater willingness to open up - I think it's fair to say that Svetlana is pretty closed off to letting other people in and it seems to translate to the reader as well. Additionally, I think there are more chapters from Lesh's point of view, if we include the chapters of the characters he creates. The book is called GUY in real life, so I imagine it's intentional that this feels more like Lesh's story than Svetlana's. Regardless, I think all the characters in this book felt very authentic and I particularly enjoyed the development of the relationship between Lesh and Svetlana - it felt very much like my own high school days, full of awkwardness and worry.
Here's where I struggle a bit with this book: I loved the premise and I loved the incorporation of gaming and roleplaying into the story. I think it's great that this stuff is becoming more forefront in pop culture (and not just as a scapegoat or humor device). I loved the complexity of Lesh creating a "toon" based on Svetlana and what that might mean for him - why does he like roleplaying as a girl so much more than as a hypermasculine warrior? I love how the whole story feels tense with anticipation for the moment when Lesh's Svvetlana avatar becomes known and impacts his relationship with the real Svetlana. This is all really great stuff - stuff I think teens will easily relate to as well as be able to think and talk about in a meaningful way. But, for me personally, the chapters that take place in Lesh's RPG were tedious and boring. I've never played an RPG - tabletop or online - so I can't exactly speak to authenticity, but they certainly read as very believable to me. Unfortunately, I just didn't like them. There is a reason I've never played an RPG and these chapters highlighted it for me - I was bored reading them. Obviously, your mileage may vary, and they are, of course, invaluable to the plot of the story; I just didn't like reading them.
What I didn't expect is the ending. I would have liked a bit more closure with the story. Yes, it's nice to imagine for myself what might happen next for these characters, but I had a lot of questions when I got to the last sentence that I wish would have been answered.
Ultimately, I think this book will definitely appeal to contemporary YA fans. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.