ARC Review: In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak

in real life by lawrence tabak

Fifteen-year-old math prodigy Seth Gordon knows exactly what he wants to do with his life—play video games. Every spare minute is devoted to honing his skills at Starfare, the world’s most popular computer game. His goal: South Korea, where the top pros are rich and famous. But the best players train all day, while Seth has school and a job and divorced parents who agree on only one thing: “Get off that damn computer.” Plus there’s a new distraction named Hannah, an aspiring photographer who actually seems to understand his obsession.

While Seth mopes about his tournament results and mixed signals from Hannah, Team Anaconda, one of the leading Korean pro squads, sees something special. Before he knows it, it’s goodbye Kansas, goodbye Hannah, and hello to the strange new world of Korea. But the reality is more complicated than the fantasy, as he faces cultural shock, disgruntled teammates, and giant pots of sour-smelling kimchi.

What happens next surprises Seth. Slowly, he comes to make new friends, and discovers what might be a breakthrough, mathematical solution to the challenges of Starcraft. Delving deeper into the formulas takes him in an unexpected direction, one that might just give him a new focus—and reunite him with Hannah.

Description taken from Netgalley. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.


I felt a connection to this book from the beginning because of the main character and the fact that he loves video games. I loved the way that the struggles, joys and journey that come with being a professional gamer–or just a gamer in general were outlined and written. I thought that it was a well-executed book and I was able to really connect with Seth’s life.

I also really enjoyed the way that many lessons were taught over the course of this book, specifically showing how Seth struggles and struggles to become a professional gamer, but then realizes that he’s lost some of what made him love gaming in the first place and he never really has time to himself.

IN REAL LIFE was a book that entertained me, made me think a little bit and ultimately ended well. I think it will appeal to both girls and guys, and anyone who enjoys playing video games. There are many things that become unresolved and resolved over the course of the plot, and Seth learns many life lessons. As time goes on, the voice of his character matures and the writing becomes better and better.

I actually loved being in Korea when I was there, and I had wished that Seth could’ve really enjoyed it more and seen both the pros and cons to it. In that aspect, and with the pacing, I felt that the book could’ve been better. I also thought that the dialogue and the way that Seth spoke was a little weird, especially in the beginning. However, this book had a very satisfactory ending and overall I loved Seth’s journey.

For older readers, specifically those who remember and miss the culture and video games of the 90s, I would recommend Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, but for younger, middle-school readers I would definitely recommend this book. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 288

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