Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Upon first receiving my books, I was immediately struck by how different they seemed to be (as seems to be the theme amongst these pairings). I worried about the challenges that this may have provided in choosing a winner, knowing how partial I can be to particular styles & genres. However, the challenge ended up being much less than I anticipated - I was able to settle on a clear winner right away.
The first, Shine by Lauren Myracle is a dramatic coming-of-age tale, set in a sleepy Southern town, wrought with all the token ailments one would expect of it - bigotry, misogyny & drastic socio-economic gaps among them. The central conflict is sparked by a violent hate crime victimizing a gay teenager in the town, providing Myracle with a valuable platform to explore an important humanitarian issue. Aside from occasional, varying glimpses into the reactions of the townspeople, however, she eschews the political for the more sensational & creates an almost noir-esque pulp detective novel, wrought with mysterious alibis & red herrings. Cat, the damaged protagonist, leaves no stone unturned as she searches for justice, discovers her true self, & of course, falls in love with a handsome, green-eyed co-ed from the nearby college. I found Shine to be far more emotional & predictable than enlightening. It is much more about the narrative than the circumstances. Perhaps treating the social aspects so flipantly was more intentional on her part than I picked up on, but nonetheless, it fell a bit short for me. It was an easy & relatively compelling read – something I would certainly recommend picking up casually, but perhaps not one I would recommend investing considerable amounts of time, energy or money into.
In contrast, Manga Man, a joint literary/artistic effort by Barry Lyga & Colleen Doran focuses on sociological politics under a completely different light. Although I had a difficult time with the artistic busy-ness at first (the panels are jam-packed, occasionally overwhelmingly so), the concept is charming & original. As a result of a supernatural rip in his universe, anime character Ryoko is dropped, unaware & unprepared, into an alternate, American-style comic book universe. As Ryoko navigates his new surroundings, shocks classmates with his animated idiosyncrasies (his eyes turning into hearts at the sight of a pretty girl, rain clouds spoiling surrounding fabric when he’s upset, speed lines crashing to the ground when he runs… the list goes on…) & falls in love with the beautiful, blond, adventurous Marissa, Lyga & Doran playfully explore the conventions of the comic genre. Although far from a manga fan, I was delighted by the spirited references & entertained by the clever use of artwork. Additionally, there were tonnes of little details could potentially open themselves up for some great discussion!
With all of that said (phew!) I feel confident in recommending Manga Man to continue on to the next round. Enjoy!