Review: In Real Life

in_real_lifeIn Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Anda is thrilled when she’s invited to join Clan Fahrenheit, a guild of girl gamers in Coarsegold, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. One of the other guild members offers her a lucrative proposition: real money in exchange for eliminating “gold farmers”–players whose avatars illegally collect objects within the game and sell them to wealthy players. Sounds great: get paid to kill rule-breakers and keep the world of Coarsegold a fair playing field. But when Anda befriends one of the gold farmers she’s supposed to eliminate (by killing his avatar), she realizes the situation is a lot more complicated. The gold farmer, Raymond, is a poor Chinese teen gamer who works twelve hours a day collecting objects in the game for his heartless boss to sell. His alternative: life in a zipper factory. As they get to know each other better, Anda encourages Raymond to stand up to his boss and organize his fellow workers for health care and better working conditions.

Okay, I confess: everything I know about gaming I learned from watching The Guild and Video Game High School. (And that one time I played Skylanders, but we don’t talk about that.)

Luckily, you don’t have to be a gamer to love In Real Life, which combines Cory Doctorow’s signature interest in technological economics and activism with Jen Wang’s beautiful, impeccably paced art. I love how Kirkus Reviews says it: In Real Life “uses the fictional frame to drive home a hard truth: that many of the games we play or items we buy have unseen people tied to them, people who have their own struggles.”

Jen Wang’s art carries both the action and the emotional beats of the story, moving between Anda’s real life and the world of Coarsegold. The art is so, so beautiful: the in-game scenes are luminous with gorgeous pastel backdrops; the action and emotional sequences move fluidly from panel to panel or slip the boundaries of the lines altogether. The figures are incredibly expressive, from the tiny, helpless-looking pixie avatars of the gold farmers to Anda’s chubby, often glum real-world self to her flowing-haired warrior avatar.

In Real Life is a triumph of form meeting function: the immediacy and emotional resonance of the online world demand visual representation, while the art in turn buoys the central theme: that the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit the poor and less powerful can be defeated by ordinary people’s ability to unite and connect over something they love.

Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang will be at Mrs. Dalloway’s tonight at 7:30! See you there!

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Event: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang IN REAL LIFE

It’s true!  Writer Cory Doctorow and artist Jen Wang will be at Mrs. Dalloway’s on Thursday, October 16 at 7:30 pm! Their new graphic novel, In Real Life, is a sensitive, thoughtful look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture-clash with starred reviews from Booklist and Quill & Quire. Stay tuned for our review!

Doctorow_WangEvent Details
The event will start promptly at 7:30pm and will run for about an hour, including a Q&A session and signing. It is free and open to the public. No tickets are required, but you can reserve a seat by purchasing a copy of the book (recommended). Reservations can be made:

- In person! We are located at 2904 College Avenue in Berkeley (between Ashby and Russell Streets in the beautiful Elmwood district). Our opening hours are Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm and Sunday 11am-6pm.
– By calling 510-704-8222 during our regular business hours (see above) with a Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express card.

We are happy to accommodate wheelchair and other disability seating needs (advance notice is much appreciated).

Questions? Leave a comment here, call the store at 510-704-8222, or drop us an email at!

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Event: Rita Williams-Garcia in conversation with Carla Riemer

This event isn’t YA, strictly speaking, but it’s too exciting not to post here! Rita-Williams-Garcia

Rita Williams-Garcia, author of Newbery Honor book One Crazy Summer and Coretta Scott King Award-winner P.S. Be Eleven, will be at Mrs. Dalloway’s on Friday, September 19 at 7:30 pm! She will be interviewed by Carla Riemer, the librarian at Claremont Middle School, member of the 2015 YALSA William C. Morris Award committee, and former Mrs. Dalloway’s staffer.

See you there!

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It’s the start of September and we’re in the thick of Back to School season! We have some great events coming up, including Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang on October 16, as well as a September 14 launch party for Esther Ehrlich’s middle-grade debut, Nest, and Annie Barrows with her new Ivy+Bean activity book on October 18.

October 18 is also our store’s 10th anniversary–stay tuned for more details about the anniversary celebration as well as some new reviews.

A bit of news about our online presence: you can now follow us on Tumblr! It’s a little more photo-friendly than WordPress, so in addition to re-blogs, bookseller road trips, cake, cats, and tag commentary, there are more photos of what’s going on in the store. We’ll do our best to keep all our platforms updated as we head into the thick of fall release season. Woooo!

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Summer Recs: Not Realism & Graphic Novels

Here’s Part 2 of our annotated teen summer recommendations! (Click here for Part 1: Realism & Nonfiction.) It encompasses a pretty wide range of genres: fantasy, post-apocalyptic, regular apocalyptic, cyberpunk, and some other genre-hoppers. And of course some great graphic novels, both fictional and nonfictional. Still supporting #WeNeedDiverseBooks; all of these great titles have diverse characters and/or authors.

Not Realism

akataAkata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Penguin, $17.99). Think albino girl Harry Potter. Then think AWESOME. When American-born Sunny Nwazue moves back to Nigeria with her family, she discovers that she’s a magical free agent: one of the Leopard folk, who have their own secret culture and incredibly cool magic system. Sunny and her new friends must grow into their powers quickly: there’s a serial killer on the loose who threatens the balance of the world, and they may be the only ones who can stop him. “The worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds…Ebulliently original.”–Kirkus. Ages 11+

dreamthieveshardcoverThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, $18.99). In this mind-blowing sequel to The Raven Boys ($9.99), the quest for Glendower’s tomb continues, but perpetually angry Ronan Lynch has more to worry about: Ronan is the Greywaren, a person with the ability to bring objects from his dreams into the waking world. And Ronan’s dreams are violently dark. By night he flees monsters of his own creation; by day his gasoline-soaked rivalry with the infamous Joseph Kavinsky grows ever more intense. The combination of  love and comradeship between Ronan, Blue, Gansey, Adam, and Noah continues to shift as the stakes intensify. “An absolute marvel of imagination and an irresistible invitation to wonder.”–Booklist, starred review. Five starred reviews total! Read our full review. Ages 13+

grasshopperGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Penguin, $18.99). Austin Szerba has a lot on his plate: his brother is injured in Iraq; beautiful Shann Collins finally, improbably, returns his affections; and he’s having confusing feelings for his best friend Robby Brees. And then Austin and Robby accidentally unleash a mutant army of doomsday praying mantises on poor, unsuspecting rural Iowa. Chaos, gore, and hilarity ensue. You’ll be shocked, you’ll be grossed out, but you won’t be able to put it down. Fans of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will instantly connect with Austin’s gut-wrenchingly honest voice in the most gleefully, unapologetically bizarre book you’ll ever read. Three starred reviews! Ages 14+

huntressHuntress by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown, $8.99). A character-driven fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology! The human world is ailing, and Kaede and the sage Taisin are chosen to make the dangerous journey to the realm of the Fairy Queen to beg for aid. The path is perilous, but Kaede and Taisin come to rely on each other as their relationship transforms from unease to friendship to something more. Together, they must save their world and embrace their own destinies. “Lo’s storytelling and prose are masterful, and her protagonists will fascinate.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review. Ages 14+

ashalaThe Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Candlewick, $17.99). A unique, enthralling dystopia! In a post-apocalyptic society where Illegals have developed special abilities that are considered to be outside the Balance and therefore dangerous and uncontrollable, government researchers have developed a Machine that can tear memories from its victims. Ashala Wolf, the charismatic leader of the renegade Tribe of Illegals, must face the Machine as a captive. With a fascinating heroine, influences from aboriginal Australian mythology, and giant telepathic killer lizards, this is dystopia as you’ve never quite seen it. “Draws from a vast, rich cultural tapestry that will be new to many readers. If an ‘exhilarating dystopia’ strikes you as oxymoronic, this vivid, original debut just might change your mind.”–Kirkus. Ages 12+

killerKiller of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (Tu Books, $19.95). This action-packed dystopia stars a kickass female Apache superhero! In a post-apocalyptic steampunk future, Lozen hunts genetically modified monsters for the Ones–the overlords who hold her family hostage to ensure good behavior. With every monster she kills, Lozen’s powers grow, and she secretly begins to plot their escape. “Lozen’s tactics and weaponry are detailed at length but within a cultural framework that fosters respect for the planet and its surviving natural inhabitants. A good bet for fans of superhero fiction and graphic novels and readers in search of superpowered female warriors.”–Kirkus. Ages 12+

livingThe Living by Matt de la Pena (Random House, $17.99). Shy’s summer job on a luxury cruise ship turns into a mystery-disaster-thriller when The Big One hits. An earthquake destroys pandemic-ridden California, and a tsunami wrecks the ship, catapulting Shy into a harrowing fight for survival on the sea. “Much of the fun of de la Pena’s latest is how unexpectedly he blends genres, making this, in a sense, four books in one: a finely observed social-class drama, an on-the-sea survival adventure, a global-disaster book, and a contagion thriller.”–Booklist. A starred review from Kirkus! Ages 14+

otherboundOtherbound by Corinne Duyvis (Abrams, $17.95). The most original book of the year! Every time Nolan Santiago closes his eyes, he sees out of Amarna’s eyes instead. Amarna is the mute servant to a fugitive princess–in another world. With magical danger on one side and looming family disaster on the other, the only hope for Nolan and Amarna is to discover the truth about their connection. “Duyvis creates a humdinger of an adventure that contains the agony of loyalty, the allure of magic, and, most gratifyingly, the element of surprise.” –The Horn Book. Three starred reviews! Ages 14+

proxyProxy by Alex London (Penguin, $9.99). Cue up your best Movie Trailer Guy voice! IN A WOOOOOOOORLD where Proxies pay off debts by taking the punishment for their Patrons’ crimes, two boys defy the system and shake the very foundations of their society. When Knox crashes a car and kills someone, Syd is sentenced to death in his place. Syd and Knox go on the run together in a desperate bid for escape.  “A smart, stylish science-fiction thriller that deftly weaves big issues like guilt, accidents of birth, redemption and commerce into a page-turning read. Whipping Boy + Blade Runner with a sprinkling of The Hunger Games (plus, of course, a dash of A Tale of Two Cities) = a treat for teen SF fans.” –Kirkus

shadowsShadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson (Simon & Schuster, $9.99). To escape a government that needs antigens in aboriginal blood to stop a plague, 16-year-old Cassandra and her family flee to the Island. Cassandra soon finds that her ability to interact with the spirit world is growing, and she must discover the purpose for her power. Incorporating the traditions of the First Peoples as well as the stories of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend, this is a haunting, beautifully written story. “A post-apocalyptic debut breathes new life into a quickly flagging genre with its setting among the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest.”–Kirkus. Ages 12+

summerprinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Scholastic, $9.99, pb 7/29). In the beautiful pyramid city of Palmares Tres, the ruling Aunties’ power is enforced by a bloody ritual: every five years, an elected king is ritually sacrificed in a symbolic renewal of the Aunties’ power. June and her best friend, Gil, are fascinated by the new Summer King, Enki, a brilliant artist and dancer from the lowest algae-studded tier of their city. The year the three of them spend together is dazzling–a time of political and artistic awakening that will change their world–but always shadowed by Enki’s approaching death. “Evocative, disturbing, and exhilarating, this story leaves much for the reader to ponder, from the nuanced characters to fascinating central themes, including the impact of technology and the role of isolationism in a perilous world. Like leaping into cold water on a hot day, this original dystopian novel takes the breath away, refreshes, challenges, and leaves the reader shivering but yearning for another plunge.”–Booklist, starred review. Three starred reviews total! Ages 14+

Graphic Novels

boxers saints delilahdirk gaijin march skim thisonesummer






Boxers & Saints
by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, $34.99 box set) Read our full review! Ages 12+
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff (First Second, $15.99) Read our full review! Ages 12+
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner (Disney Press, $19.99) Ages 10+
March, Book 1 by John Lewis (Top Shelf, $14.95) Ages 12+
Skim by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (Groundwood, $12.95) Ages 14+
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (First Second, $17.99) Read our full review! Ages 12+

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Summer Recs: Realism & Nonfiction

Here at last is Part 1 of this year’s annotated teen summer reading recommendations! In keeping with our wholehearted endorsement of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, all of these are fantastic books with diverse characters and/or authors.

Realism, Historical, & Nonfiction

aristotle&danteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz (Simon & Schuster, $9.99). Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When they meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the two loners start spending time together, they  discover that they share a special kind of friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. “Ari’s first-person narrative poetic, philosophical, honest skillfully develops the relationship between the two boys from friendship to romance.”–The Horn Book, starred review. Three starred reviews total! A Printz Honor book. Winner of the Stonewall, Pura Belpre, and Lambda Literary awards. Ages 12+

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by L. counterfeitTam Holland (Simon & Schuster, $9.99). A history assignment turns fifteen-year-old Vee Crawford-Wong’s life upside down and propels him on a journey of discovery. It’s hard to write about one of your ancestors when your Chinese immigrant dad and blonde Texan mom steadfastly refuse to talk about their families. In desperation, Vee makes up a story about his Chinese grandfather. It more than satisfies Vee’s history teacher, but it also brings to a head Vee’s lifelong frustration with his parents’ silence and his personal lack of cultural identity. Holland negotiates Vee’s awkwardness and longing with humor and utter sincerity right through to the astonishing, thought-provoking end. A starred review from Kirkus! Read our full review. Ages 14+

everythingEverything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (Penguin, $17.99). While cruising an estate sale for the perfect couch for the Hollywood movie they’re working on, Emi and her best friend Charlotte discover a letter from a deceased movie star to his estranged non-celebrity daughter. Desperate for a distraction from her recent break-up, Emi embarks on a quest to find his last living relative–a quest that changes more than one life. “The story can feel like a Hollywood fairy tale. But underneath the privilege surges real pain, longing, and feeling.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review. Ages 14+

goldenboyGolden Boy by Tara Sullivan (Penguin, $8.99). Habo is an albino, shunned by his Tanzanian family because of the color of his skin. Albino body parts, however, are considered lucky and fetch a high price on the black market: to some, Habo is worth more dead than alive. Fleeing from human poachers, Habo becomes the apprentice to a wise, blind carver who challenges him to prove his worth not just to the world, but also to himself. “Keenly perceptive and eschews self-pity… A riveting fictional snapshot of one Tanzanian boy who makes himself matter.”–Kirkus, starred review. Two starred reviews total! Ages 12+

ifieverIf I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gainsworth (Scholastic, $17.99). Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base. But in 1975 upstate New York, there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship. “Gansworth, himself an enrolled member of the Onondaga nation, explores the boys’ organic relationship with generosity and tenderness and unflinching clarity, sidestepping stereotypes to offer two genuine characters navigating the unlikely intersection of two fully-realized worlds. While Gansworth manages the weighty themes of racism and poverty with nuance and finesse, at its heart this is a rare and freehearted portrait of true friendship.” –Booklist, starred review. Ages 12+

ifyoucouldIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Algonquin, $9.95). In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, 17-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret. After Nasrin’s parents announce her arranged marriage, Sahar proposes a drastic solution. This is a tender, poignant novel about family, first love, and knowing when to let love go. “Accomplished and compassionate… A groundbreaking, powerful depiction of gay and transsexual life in Iran.”–Booklist, starred review. Read our full review! Ages 14+

miseducationThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (HarperCollins, $9.99). For Cameron Post, surviving her ultra-conservative relatives  is a matter of keeping her head down and hiding who she really is–something Cameron’s just starting to discover. When she forges an intense friendship with the beautiful new girl in town, Cameron’s aunt takes drastic action: she sends Cameron to a religious camp to “cure” homosexuality. “The story is riveting, beautiful, and full of the kind of detail that brings to life a place (rural Montana), a time (the early 1990s), and a questioning teenage girl.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review. Four starred reviews total! Ages 14+

pointePointe by Brandy Colbert (Penguin, $17.99). Four years after Theo’s best friend, Donovan, disappeared at age thirteen, he is found and brought home and Theo puts her health at risk as she decides whether to tell the truth about the abductor, knowing her revelation could end her life-long dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. “At its heart, Pointe is about a girl’s emerging awareness of having been manipulated by someone she believed she loved. Fresh and poignant, Pointe is a fabulous read!” –Morris Award-winning author Stephanie Kuehn. Read Stephanie’s full review! Ages 14+

tyrantsdaughterThe Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carleson (Random House, $17.99). 15-year-old Laila is exiled to the United States with her mother and young brother after her father, a Middle Eastern dictator, is killed in a coup. Now she must cope with a completely new way of life, the truth of her father’s regime, and her family’s still-precarious situation. Laila is a complex, intelligent, nuanced character, and her story is one “of context, beautifully written (by a former undercover CIA agent), and stirring in its questions and eloquent observations about our society and that of the Middle East.”–Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.  Ages 12+

wewereliarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Random House, $17.99). A taut examination of racial and socioeconomic privilege wrapped in a page-turning psychological thriller. Cady Sinclair spends every summer on her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and their friend Gat. The four “Liars” are  inseparable. But something happened during her fifteenth summer in this privileged paradise, and Cady battles migraines, family silence, and her own memory to find out the truth. “Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.”–Kirkus, starred review. Five starred reviews total! Ages 12+

Nonfiction (Sorry they’re not annotated; I ran out of time!)

beyondmagenta letterq nazihunters openmic portchicago50




Beyond Magenta ed. by Susan Kuklin (Candlewick, $22.99). Ages 14+
The Letter Q ed. by Sarah Moon (Scholastic, $10.99). Ages 12+
The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb (Scholastic, $16.99). Ages 12+
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices ed. by Mitali Perkins (Candlewick, $15.99). Ages 12+
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin (Macmillan, $19.99). Ages 10+

Up next: not-realism and graphic novels!

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Summer Recommendations

IMG_2140Our teen summer rec list is here! (Yes, I know it’s July. Shhhh!) I’ll post the recommendations in the days to come.

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