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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Level Up

Level Up

Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Thien Pham

First Second


Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and is a MacArthur Fellow, a recipient of what's popularly known as the MacArthur "Genius" Grant.

A New York Times Notable Children's Book (Young Adult) for 2011


Video Games vs. Medical School!

Which will win the battle for our hero's attention in Gene Luen Yang's new graphic novel?

Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents' high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally.

But four adorable, bossy, and occasionally terrifying angels arrive just in time to lead Dennis back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. It's all part of the plan, they tell him. But is it? This powerful piece of magical realism brings into sharp relief the conflict many teens face between pursuing their dreams and living their parents'.

Partnered with the deceptively simple, cute art of newcomer Thien Pham, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized with American Born Chinese. Whimsical and serious by turns, Level Up is a new look at the tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.

New Jersey Garden State Teen Book Award Master List, YALSA Popular Paperbacks, Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor Title, Indiana Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award, YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens, NYTBR Notable Children's BOTY, New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Books of the Year, YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, American Library Association Popular Paperbacks for Young Readers, Texas Maverick Graphic Novels List, New Jersey Garden State Teen Book A ML

In the Press

Read the Kirkus Review of LEVEL UP . Amy Chua's <em>Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother<em> describes high-pressure parenting to produce high achievers; Yang explores the other side of the equation. - Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Thien Pham

Gene Luen Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received a Xeric Grant for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan's Kingdom, The Rosary Comic Book, Prime Baby and Animal Crackers. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. He also won an Eisner for The Eternal Smile, a collaboration with Derek Kirk Kim. Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he teaches high school. He got his Master's in Education at Cal State Hayward, where he wrote his thesis on using comics in education.

THIEN PHAM is a comic book and visual artist, based in the Bay Area. He is also a high school teacher. Pham illustrated Gene Luen Yang's Level Up, a YALSA Great Graphic Novel and New York Times Notable Children's Book. Sumo is his first solo work.

image of Gene Luen Yango

Gene Luen Yang

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image of Thien Phamo
art by Kolbe Yang

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