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Level Up, Gene Luen Yang

2012/01/10

Yang, known for his Prinz award winner, “American Born Chinese,” has written another graphic novel about parents and a child, of cultural expectations and communication gaps. In this novel, illustrated by Thien Pham, a young man named Dennis Ouyang struggles to live up to his parents’ expectations. As a child, his parents give him chemistry kits and pressure him to get good grades; after his father dies, Dennis tries to balance his love of gaming with his father’s wish that he become a doctor. Along the way, he has a little “help” from four specters who help him with housework, clean, cook, and nag him to continue studying.

Although this is a very short book, there is plenty to like about it. The storyline will appeal to any teen who has had to deal with parental pressure, the expectation of others, and the desire to please while still following one’s own interests. I found myself nodding along to some of the conversations that Dennis has with his parents, as well as scenes where we learn about their motives. Those who found Yang’s previous novel not quite to their liking may have a better appreciation of this one.

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