In Real Life -- Young Adult Book Review -- Multicultural Monday & Math

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 Disclosure: Tuttle Publishing gave me a copy of this book free of charge for this review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. They also sent me a copy to giveaway! As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation. 

Today I am sharing a young adult book. It is about a high school boy, Seth, who is very good at math as well as video games. He wants to compete against the top Starfare players in the world and those are the professionals in Korea. What interested me was the idea of a multicultural math story. The book is In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak.

Seth is your average teenager geek. He does well in school as long as he puts some effort in. As a sophomore he is taking math at the local university since he has already passed all the AP math classes. He is trying to figure out life, girls and how to deal with his divorced parents. He turns to his older brother for advice, but his brother is busy being a basketball star in college. Want Seth really wants is just to be able to play Starfare and be left alone. His mother goes on vacation and ends up staying at a yoga institution to live and wants him to move to California with her. His father who is always traveling does his best to keep Seth with him since he knows Seth will go crazy at the yoga institution, but he is hardly around. Seth has never had luck with girls and has a huge crush on a popular girl at school. Then Seth gets a summer job (so he can stay with his father) and meets Hannah. A beautiful girl who has just moved to Kansas with her family right before her senior year. The two of them become good friends and more and then Seth's dream comes true. He gets an offer to be on one of the top Korean professional Starfare teams. It means leaving home, Hannah, and the United States but he will get to train with the professionals. Will it be all he hopes it to be?

What I loved about this book is it is about real life. There are times in Seth and Hannah's conversations where they discuss some very deep issues in society.  Hannah questions the idea of female singers sounding like angels and yet their videos making them look like sex symbols.  She uses her photography to share her thoughts and what is on her mind. Seth seems to be the only one who gets some of it. I have to say that it really got me thinking about the societal norms and mixed messages sent to young people today. I think the mixed messages have gotten even worse since i was young, but they definitely were still there. I loved this side of the book as well as some of the other things mentioned in the book. It really gets the reader thinking.

Now I am not a gamer and never have been. We never owned any of the video games in our house as a child or an adult.  However I do know that any video game has math involved. Whether it is the programming itself (yes it is math that creates the scenes and images) or in the skills of playing it. Starfare (which apparently is a real game) can use mathematics to help with the strategy of the game and that is what Seth discovers in the story. There also do seem to be professional games in South Korea and it is apparently a big thing there. (Reference

Now of course I always like to discuss the math extensions with a book. The obvious one for this is game theory. Some lessons on what game theory is are available on-line here and here. Often game theory is studied after calculus and I am going to stop here with my explanations since I do not want to bore any of you. I hope you will check out In Real Life however. You do not need to know the math to enjoy the book and it is a page turner.