by Judith Park
Rated OT, for Older Teens
Yen Press, $10.99
This book is a disappointment, with one-dimensional characters, an artificial setup, and weak art. The conversations seem weirdly stilted—do you hear teenagers say “That’s very commendable” to one another? Ever?
The story seems like it was thought up in a day, without much reflection; it lacks emotional resonance. Dionne’s older brother, Lyon, has a heart defect, so her parents favor him and pick on her. Lyon tries to compensate by being extra-nice to Dionne. Dionne’s best friend, Shikku, has a crush on Lyon, and we get to watch them go through the paces of their very ordinary romance for a while—there’s a bit of uncertainty and pulling back, and lots of dreamy introspection, but it’s not really very interesting.
And then, just when you’re ready to drop off to sleep, the story takes a bizarre and very manga-ish turn: Lyon is hit by a car and dies. While Dionne is still mourning him, her parents spring a new surprise on her: Because they feared that Lyon would die young because of his heart defect, they had him cloned, and now the clone, Gabriel, is coming to live with them. Where has Gabriel been for the past 16 years? That’s a plot hole you could drive a truck through, but everyone is too busy chewing the scenery to ask. Dionne hates Gabriel because her parents are using him as a replacement for Lyon, and because she feels they never loved her; Dionne’s parents are frustrated because in her anger, she shuts them out; Shikku sort of hopes things will work out with Gabriel; Gabriel resents his new place in their lives and wants to be his own person. More panels of introspection, and then the book winds up with an emotional denouement that doesn’t really solve the problems proposed by the plot but does leave everyone a little wiser.
The story revolves around Dionne and her emotions, and if it has a saving grace, it’s that the teenage girls who are likely to read it will identify with Dionne, as she is completely misunderstood by everyone. It’s hard for an older reader not to conclude that she’s being a brat; her resentment seems to be out of proportion to the way her parents treat her.
Park’s art seems amateurish—it’s a good example of why a lot of people don’t like global manga. She puts emphasis on style at the expense of structure. The characters don’t quite hang together, and the anatomy and foreshortening are way off. She makes a lot of newbie mistakes, focusing on faces but getting the shape of the head wrong. On the other hand, some pages hang together really well. This is the first of her books that I have seen, but I gather from reviews that her other work is stronger.
I am not the audience for this book, that’s for sure. I think it has serious structural defects, but I can see a teenage reader enjoying it nonetheless, simply because the main character is someone they can relate to.
This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher.