LARP! Volume 1: To Geek or Not to Geek
LARP! Volume 1: To Geek or Not to Geek is a short, predictable graphic novel written by Dan Jolley (Bloodhound, My Boyfriend Is a Monster) and Shawn deLoache and illustrated by Marlin Shoop. Kids, especially those who don’t fit in and dream of being popular, might enjoy it; others will find it lacking in surprises, although it has a certain amount of charm.
Pete’s going to a new school, and thanks to a sudden growth spurt over the summer, he’s become tall and reasonably attractive. He was one of the nerdy kids before, but now, he’s joining the tennis team and hanging out with the popular gang.
Then there’s the Thor-looking Horst and his friend Laura. They are better suited to Pete in personality, liking comics and writing their own fantasy fiction. They belong to a live-action role-playing group (thus the title), but the cool kids make fun of them and expect Pete to join in their ridicule. The larpers have this terrific game space, but they risk losing it to a real estate development offer.
Those involved in the story would call the writing breezy; I found it abbreviated, jumping from mood to wisecrack to plot point without allowing any of them time to develop. Most of the characters are stereotypes, given no space to add dimensions, and the sexy teacher seemed to come out of nowhere just to satisfy someone’s fantasy. There’s much too much going on in this short space, so there’s no room for anything but shallow developments.
Worse, the messages aren’t helpful. Pete is accidentally, randomly made popular through no change of his own. Laura only gets recognition for her writing when she records something that riles her up. Is the implication that you can’t write well unless the right inspirational event happens to occur? What about the idea that fiction is, you know, made up?
At one point, Laura asks Pete for feedback on her writing, and he says, “You’ve got some great dialogue and vivid imagery. But… I didn’t really like the actual story…. It didn’t seem to have any of you in it. It seemed… forced.” That’s a great description of LARP! itself.
Pete tries to be part of both groups, but the message seems to be you have to pick one or the other, since neither is willing to let him like both games and sports. If he’d been stronger and honest, maybe things would have been different… but we all know that kids aren’t like that. They demand ridiculous loyalty tests and aren’t willing to share. So them shunning him for not being honest is just another plot twist to move the story along. As is the last-minute, non-foreshadowed magic discovery of a source of barter that makes the ending work.
What I say doesn’t matter much, though, since there are already plans for a second book. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)