June 30, 2010

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Town Boy

Written by LAT
Illustrated by LAT
First Second

[Yes, I managed to read this books in reverse order, if you note the reading date on this one. Learn from my mistake! -Rob]

This is the second in a series of autobiographical graphic novels by this Malaysian artist. Brought to us by First Second Books, the publishers of the English versions of Joann Sfar's work, it's formatted like an old Far Side cartoon book, though the insides are a continuous story.

Lat tells us about his teen years in the "town" where he and his family move for his education. He meets up with a wealthy Chinese boy, who introduces him to things like owning your own records. Though the circumstances are not quite the same, I can completely relate to LAT here--relatively speaking, of course. There were several friends I had, and I'm sure you had, too--who could not quite grasp why you couldn't have the newest of everything.

The story itself is fun, but nothing extraordinary occurs, so if you're looking for a tragic death or cruelty or anything like that, you'll be disappointed. But if you enjoy graphic novels that put a comic spin on the ordinary--think Life in Hell here (Matt Groening was used as a blurb writer for this book, I think that was a spot-on choice), this is for you. The art is quirky and the scenes are fun, if not laugh-out-loud funny. The part about wooing the prettiest girl by helping with her art is one of my favorite sections. That trick never worked for me! I'm sure any reader can find things to connect to, despite the cultural gap. I enjoyed this, and I'm sure those who like the genre will, too.