Level Up

By Gene Luen Yang; art by Thien Pham

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: First Second, 2011

Genres: Fantasy, contemporary fantasy, paranormal

Format: Graphic novel

ISBN: 9781596432352

Audience: Adult, young adult

Number of pages: 160

Setting: An unspecified town somewhere in the US.

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: When Dennis Ouyang is kicked out of college due to his horrible study habits and excessive gaming tendencies, four angels come to his rescue and get him re-enrolled.  They have arrived to help Dennis fulfill his destiny and go to medical school to become a gastroenterologist.

Illustrations: The story begins in the past and the panels are shown in bluish-grey tones.  Once the story comes to the present, a wider range of earthy colors are used.  The drawings seem rather simple but manage to convey a wide range of emotions through facial expressions.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Quick pace

Characterization: The text and images are told from Dennis’s perspective.  Other characters include members of Dennis’s family, friends, and the four angels.

Frame: The title sets two frames for this story.  Video gaming is one frame which is established in the first panel.  The second frame is honesty.  It is not until Dennis learns of a hidden truth, that he is able to start choosing his own destiny.

Story line: A fun and quirky coming of age story about finding a balance between family, work, and fun                .

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Video games — Comic books, strips, etc. — Juvenile fiction.

Families — Comic books, strips, etc. — Juvenile fiction.

Immigrants — Comic books, strips, etc. — Juvenile fiction.

Chinese Americans — Comic books, strips, etc. — Juvenile fiction.

Graphic novels.

Video games — Fiction.

Family life — Fiction.

Immigrants — Fiction.

Chinese Americans — Fiction.

Graphic novels.

Similar works:

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier

Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) by Jason Shiga

Personal notes:  I really enjoyed this story with its subtle humor.  While this story is completely different from American Born Chinese in content, style and characters, it offers a unique perspective on growing up in the US as an Asian American.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – Asian Americans, Latinos, medical students, gamers, angels, ghosts

Gene Luen Yang’s website

Thien Pham’s author page on Macmillon’s website


One thought on “Level Up

  1. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and will eventually come back later on. I want to encourage continue your great work, have a nice morning!

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