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Guy in Real Life

Guy in Real Life

4.5 4
by Steve Brezenoff

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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


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 be able to show us who we are underneath it all.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ever since sophomore metalhead Lesh Tungsten collided with geeky 17-year-old outsider Svetlana Allegheny on the street, he can’t get her out of his head. When she begins to join him at lunch to thwart a classmate’s lecherous advances, focusing on anything but her becomes nearly impossible. Meanwhile, Lesh is being drawn into a multiplayer online RPG, but the avatar Lesh most enjoys playing as a buxom elf he names Svvetlana—doesn’t exactly distract him from her real-life counterpart, who is struggling to keep her Dungeons & Dragons–style gaming club afloat. Brezenoff (Brooklyn, Burning) successfully immerses readers in the characters’ progression from awkward acquaintances to adorably besotted teens. In addition to alternating between their perspectives, he also spends time within both the digital and analog RPGs, exploring sexism and gender stereotypes, while highlighting the way that both types of games are often driven by a novelistic kind of storytelling (even if some gamers skip past those scenes). An idiosyncratic romance that offers plenty of cultural food for thought. Ages 14–up. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (June)
Chicago Tribune
“The gaming motif adds an intriguing layer, as Brezenoff uses it to explore issues of gender identity. Has [Lesh] created this character because he wants to be with the real Svetlana or because he wants to be her? There is, he realizes, no simple answer.”
John Corey Whaley
“Guy in Real Life is a fascinating, original take on the spaces that exist between who we are and who we hope to be. Virtually everyone will love this book.”
Sara Zarr
“In a voice full of authentic grit, poetic verve, and real emotion, Steve Brezenoff weaves a tale that feels both wholly original and instantly classic. Another fantastic book from a writer I envy and admire.”
Pete Hautman
“I suppose Steve Brezenoff will have to grow up one of these days and forget what it was like to be sixteen, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen too soon—at least not to the part of him that can write a book like Guy in Real Life.”
Nova Ren Suma
“Guy In Real Life is a remarkably original, addictive novel that illuminates the roles we play for others and, ultimately, ourselves. A must-read for anyone who questions who they truly are, and who they could be.”
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Jim Nicosia
Late one night, after getting drunk at a concert, metalhead Lesh Tungsten stumbles into bike-riding bohemian Svetlana Allegheny. The collision results in the destruction of Svetlana’s homemade graphic art journal, and she is none too pleased by the cretin Goth boy. She says so, mincing no words, to the rest of her school gaming club, for which she is dungeon master. Lesh, meanwhile, does not think twice about the occurrence, until Svetlana shows up at his lunch table the first day of school. From that moment on, their lives intertwine, and each changes the other’s preconceptions and causes a number of alterations to the other’s sheltered life. If that were all there were to the story, it would be a familiar case of opposites attract. In the hands of Brezenoff, however, the story dives much further. Yes, Lesh is a brooding, black-clad, metal-loving rocker and Svetlana is a gorgeous, classy platinum blonde. But Lesh is also an MMO-player who thinks girls have a grace that he will never have. That is why he creates an avatar for his online game that looks like, and is named after, Svetlana. Lesh learns that he is the child of a metalhead who fell hard for a hippie. Svetlana, meanwhile, is not as kind and gentle as she seems. Both narratives are told by their respective characters, giving each a roundedness that otherwise would be absent. There is more: each of their RPG characters have stories, too, and they are told in between the “real” characters’ stories. Throughout, Brezenoff’s writing is intelligent, engaging, and insightful. He understands that even the smallest detail informs who people become. But in fleshing out so many nuances of plot and character, he complicates the boy-meets-girl genre and ends up deconstructing some of its charm, especially with the open-ended and psychologically fraught conclusion. Reviewer: Jim Nicosia; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—After some late night drinking at a heavy metal show, high school sophomore Lesh Tungsten literally runs into senior Svetlana Allegheny when her bicycle crashes into him. What begins as an accident evolves from wariness to friendship, especially after Lesh discourages an unwanted admirer of Svetlana's. They soon discover their mutual interest in gaming—he, online, and she, role-playing—and as they navigate their differences, the teens learn that the roles they play aren't as important as who they really are, especially when together. Whether reading it as a brief glimpse into the world of gaming and MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), a romance, or a tale of self-discovery, Brezenoff's novel works on many levels, and its depth and humor will appeal to many readers. Told in the alternating voices of Lesh, Svetlana, and their online personae Svvetlana and Kugnar, the story deftly navigates the real and virtual worlds of the characters, and while the gamer-speak can be a bit much, it gives the audience a better understanding of who Lesh and Svetlana truly are. Although they are flawed and have traits that are unlikable, they come across as authentic teens who will have readers rooting for them as individuals and as a couple. Their sweet-natured romance isn't overly saccharine and offers a charmingly awkward look at first love, and the supporting characters, particularly Svetlana's friends, are well developed and just as quirky as the main protagonists. For fans of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl (St. Martin's, 2013), gamers, and readers in-between.—Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-26
Sulky metal head boy meets artsy gamer girl. Awkward teenage love ensues. When Lesh's and Svetlana's worlds collide—literally—in Saint Paul, Minn., it precipitates a time-honored culture clash wherein magic happens, but that's where predictability ends. In a first-person narration that alternates between the boy in black and the girl dungeon master, Brezenoff conjures a wry, wise and deeply sympathetic portrait of the exquisite, excruciating thrill of falling in love. What might easily have been a stale retread feels fresh and lively in Brezenoff's hands; he weaves multiple perspectives (school life, game life, dream life) together in threads that tangle into an inevitable knot, with startling consequences. The realistic dialogue, internal and otherwise, captures the uncomfortably iterative process of adolescent self-discovery as Lesh and Svetlana struggle to figure out who they are and what they stand for. The typical obstacles to true love (tempting teen sirens, parents who just don't understand) are handily and gently overcome, and a subplot involving a jealous suitor peters out unexpectedly early. The juxtaposition of live, real-time role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons against the detached anonymity of MMORPGs, plus a playfully thoughtful exploration of gender identity and politics, gives the novel depth and heart that will appeal to audiences beyond the gaming set. This is not the teen love story you've read a thousand times before. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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File size:
568 KB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Steve Brezenoff is the author of the young adult novels The Absolute Value of -1, which won the IPPY Gold Medal for young adult fiction, and Brooklyn, Burning, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book, was a Best Fiction for Young Adults selection by the American Library Association, and won the ForeWord Book of the Year Gold Medal for young adult fiction. Born on Long Island, Steve now lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Beth, and their son and daughter, Sam and Etta. His main is a Blood Elf monk, but he's been known to run a Night Elf priest from time to time.

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Guy in Real Life 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
During a week's worth of reading, I skimmed the gaming parts where Lesh played Svvetlana in the game. I missed too much, and I thought throughout the book that Fry sent Svetlana the flowers, since he had "kissed her in the rain" and I hadn't caught the part with Stebbins and Lesh (aka Svvetlana, two v's). Overall, I'm either a drab reader or the author should've caught my attention more during Lesh's game. Five stars.
DahlELama More than 1 year ago
This was such a fun, interesting, thought-provoking read, and definitely a departure from other contemp YA romances I've read! Lesh is a brand-new gamer, just discovering MMORPGs, and both the joy of online communities and the tempting ability to step into someone else's shoes for a while that come along with it. Meanwhile, Svetlana is a dungeon master, craftsman extraordinaire with crazy amounts of artistic talent and her own gaming community in the form of a school club that can't seem to get it together. Watching them surprise themselves by coming to embrace the other in well-handled alternating POVs is fun and sweet and magical in its own right, particularly after their rocky start and the unginorable fact that neither is quite what what the other thought (s)he'd want in a partner. But the real magic of G.I.R.L. is in the gaming world, from Brezenoff's clever deconstruction of what it's like to be a gamer as a girl (and the total creep factors that come into play) to the inherent self-ID confusion that often comes along with immersing yourself so deeply in another being. As someone whose games of choice have always been RPGs (though single-player ones, because I'm a completely incompetent gamer), there was so much added joy in reading this and feeling my fingers get all itchy to jump on a computer. I couldn't say how this translates to either more serious gamers or those with no gaming experience at all, but I know I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So disappointed. The description of this book had me beyond excited- John Green, Rainbow Rowell... what could go wrong? A lot. I just could not enjoy this book the way that I had hoped. The chapters set in the video game world were drug out and in my opinion, pretty pointless for the most part. I found myself skimming most of them. And the characters just weren't very realistic. I just felt like this book tried too hard to be like the books it was compared to and didn't even come close.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is a contest to see who my bf will be. For a q & a session go to prom date res 3. To make your desicion go to prom date res 4. Thank you. And may the odds be ever in your favor!!!!!!