From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story in the vein of Rainbow Rowell and John Green, about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.
It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.
But they don’t.
This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other’s lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn’t belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren’t in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.
I am not a gamer. I don’t play MMO. I don’t do RPG. I don’t listen to metal music. I don’t sew. But this book grabbed my attention. Even when I had a gazillion things to do during the day, I managed to squeeze in a few minutes here and there, just to open the book and escape into the worlds of Lesh and Svetlana. Their lives were very different from mine and yet I felt a deep connection with these characters.
It’s kind of hard to describe why I liked the story. I guess part of it was because I didn’t exactly know where the story was taking me. Two strangers collided. Until the first day of school, they didn’t even know if they would ever meet again. Lesh, a sixteen-year-old, was a sophomore. He hadn’t tried many things in his life and was reluctant to be an obedient teen. Svetlana, a senior, was a talented artist. She knew what she didn’t want but felt somewhat trapped by the mundane transition to become a responsible adult. They might seem to be from two different worlds but as the story progressed, I found that they weren’t that different. It was interesting to see their perspectives, their views towards their family members, their wants to be in their comfort zones, and their needs to get out of their disorderly ruts.
It might seem as though nothing much had happened in the story. The ending didn’t offer a usual tone of finitude but as I closed the book and reflected on what I read, I actually liked the ending. It gave off a nice contrast to all the elements that were given in the very beginning. The characters had changed and I appreciated both the subtle and not-so-subtle thought-provoking moments.
What intrigued me the most was that I felt I had somehow changed just by reading the story. I think Guy In Real Life is a wonderful coming-of-age novel. It’s not preachy. The character dynamics are very well-developed, and I like that something unpredicted happened and ‘shocked me to my senses’. I think I’ll remember this story for a very long time.