My catching up on reviews continues with these three comics I read that all focus on romance. All three are diverse, inclusive reads that focus on characters of different age groups.
Moonstruck is fantasy but focuses on characters in college and seems geared toward a YA audience. However, I’d argue that it could be recommended to older middle grade readers as well. Virtually Yours is contemporary and focuses on characters who’ve recently graduated from college and are beginning adult life; it seems geared toward older YA and new adult audiences. And Bingo Love is also contemporary but focuses on older adults and is geared toward audiences that are YA and older. All were pretty good reads.
YA Fantasy; YA Romance
Moonstruck is a fantasy graphic novel series that takes place in the supernatural college town of Blitheton and focuses on Julie, a girl struggling to accept that she’s a werewolf. In this volume, spring has arrived, which means it’s time for the annual mermaid festival, the Unfreezing Festival. Julie usually attends the festival with her best friend Chet (a centaur), but this year Chet and their partner Manuel are attending a NewPals (like Neopets) internship, so Julie will instead attend the festival with her girlfriend, Selena, and Selena’s best friend, Skyla, a mermaid.
As usual, Julie feels awkward and anxious, which is increased when she receives an ominous warning from her prophetic friend Cassie saying she must break up with Selena and when she realizes she has attracted the attention of a strange Finstagram influencer called Kit. So again, lots of shenanigans happen, Julie and Selena argue, and nothing goes according to plan — including the NewPals internship. (Goodreads)
I keep returning to these comics for the art and all the characters except Julie and Selena, lol. I keep wanting to love the story as much as I do the art, but I guess I’ll just have to accept that’s not going to happen. However, the story has some great things going for it that I love.
Despite the “drama” between Julie and Selena, the story is often a delightful read because of the other characters. I love it whenever the psychic Cass pops in and, of course, Chet is my favorite character, so it’s a wonderful time whenever they are featured. This volume didn’t focus on Chet much, unfortunately, but the glimpses we get of their time at the NewPals internship made me wish the story had focused on them instead. I also love that we explore more of Blitheton in each volume. In this one, we venture below the lake to see where the mermaids live. We also meet a mermaid, Skyla, Selena’s friend. On land, Skyla gets around in a wheelchair that holds her in a bowl of water. I thought that was so cool. And another new character we meet is the Finstagram influencer, Kit, who’s a kitsune and an obvious trickster. I liked the subtle ways Ellis and Beagle clue us in to this.
What I don’t like is Julie and Selena’s relationship because of how tense it is. Their relationship seems even more fragile in this volume, and Julie even more anxious since she was in a situation outside her comfort zone — hanging out with Selena’s friend. Although I didn’t like how angst-filled this volume is and kept hoping Julie and Selena would indeed break up so I could stop feeling/reading about the tension in their relationship, I did feel sorry for them both, especially Julie, since all the tension stems from her discomfort and insecurity with being a werewolf. I appreciate that we get some backstory to see how this insecurity began. And, regarding Julie’s major decision at the end (which I was expecting since the first volume), I wonder what will become of her in the next volume.
I love the illustrations. They are what drew me to these comics initially, and they are what keep me coming back. They are so cute. The way the characters are drawn make them all seem so cuddly, lol, as if they’d make great plush toys. And I think the soft tones of the colors used help to emphasize this. There’s no other word for these illustrations other than cute.
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½
I mean, it’s a good read. It’s entertaining and many readers will relate to Julie struggling to accept part of her identity (or wishing she could change a major part of herself), but I can’t get on with angsty reads.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Virtually Yours is a contemporary-romance standalone graphic novel focusing on two characters who both connect on a dating app called Virtually Yours. The story is set in a city (I imagined it as NYC) where both characters live. There’s Eva Estrella, who graduated top of her class at CUNY’s journalism school. Eva is trying to secure a job to jumpstart her career as a journalist while juggling her family’s (well, her mother’s) persistent urging that she get a boyfriend. She joins Virtually Yours, which allows her to pretend that she has a boyfriend, after her sister suggested she do so to appease their family (mom). Child actor Max Kittridge’s tumultuous marriage is heading for divorce. He decides to take a job at Virtually Yours, where he serves as his clients’ fake boyfriend.
The two characters meet and interact on Virtually Yours not knowing who exactly they are speaking with. Max doesn’t see a photo of his clients, and the avatar he selected on Virtually Yours is a white dude to seem “basic, nonthreatening, average.” Since they both frequent the same areas in the city, they eventually meet IRL and realize they’ve been interacting on Virtually Yours, which leads to some drama. (Goodreads)
It was fun. I enjoyed it and found some parts highly relatable. And although this concept has been used for many rom-coms, I wouldn’t mind seeing it adapted for a movie.
The pace is pretty fast, so I ended it wanting more and wishing certain things were either lingered on or given more time to develop, like us seeing how Eva and Max’s relationship grew stronger. I think lingering a bit longer here would have made the point where things fall apart more impactful. But still, I liked what I read. I liked that we see Eva going after the career she wants yet having to decide if she’ll do whatever it takes or stick to journalistic ethics to protect her friend. This is another bit I wish was lingered on a little more too.
I also liked Max’s friendship with his best friend, Patrick, a comic-book store owner. Patrick is so supportive. Max was the child star of a major Christmas movie that became a classic (like Home Alone). His parents were controlling and abusive and his marriage was controlling and abusive too with him being the abusee. We see Max trying to heal from those experiences and Patrick being supportive of him doing so. However, there is a part when Patrick shares all this about Max with Eva, which I thought was oversharing because I wasn’t certain how close Max and Eva was that she should be privy to such sensitive information about Max, but I think the fast pace was probably to blame for my uncertainty about the strength of their relationship. Also, since this oversharing occurs when the relationship between Max and Eva was falling apart, it helped to clue in both Eva and us readers on Max’s backstory so we better understand why he reacted as he did. But still… Patrick just talked out all Max’s bizniz. Damn dude!
I love the illustrations. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything really outstanding about it, but I just love this style. The lines are thin and clean, which I love because I don’t like too many hatch marks or extra sketch marks and all that. I also like the colors used, which have a warm tone to them, and I absolutely love how the characters are drawn, especially Eva’s best friend, whose name I forgot but she’s a bartender and she’s Black with natural hair (love how that’s drawn) and queer. Actually, to be honest, the hairstyles of the characters are probably my favorite parts of the illustrations, lol.
It was good, fun, and relatable, but I was left wanting more and wishing certain parts were more fleshed out.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
But it’s free with Amazon Prime/Comixology membership, I think, and the e-book is $1.99.
YA Romance; YA Contemporary
Bingo Love is a contemporary-romance standalone graphic novel about how a woman met the love of her life. The story begins at a nursing home in the year 2038. Elle, our protagonist, is a resident there consoling a girl whose parents kicked her out of their home for being gay. This leads Elle to share her story, which makes up the bulk of the book.
Elle met Mari in 1963, when they were both 13 years old. Mari had just moved to Paterson, N.J., from California and, like Elle, would attend the church bingo games with her grandmother. For Elle, it was love at first sight when she saw Mari. The two became best friends, spending every moment together. In their senior year of high school (I think), they realize they felt the same about each other, but their family separated them when they were found kissing. Mari was sent down South to marry a preacher’s son, and Elle, who was told she had disgraced the family, ended up marrying an Air Force pilot the next year.
Fifty years later after marriages and raising their own kids, the two have a passionate reunion at church, which upset many family members. But having spent such a long time away from their soul mate, Elle and Mari seize the opportunity to finally be with the one they love. (Goodreads)
I liked the story and, of course, loved that it focuses on Black characters. I liked seeing the girls meet and observing how their relationship grows until Elle’s romantic feelings are reciprocated. I also liked that Elle and Mari are able to pick up where they left off years later and continue to have a great romantic relationship and marriage. The end is a bit heart wrenching but tender as well.
The story touches on the messiness of relationships and how complicated things can get sometimes. Since the story focuses on Elle, we see how strained her marriage has become to the point where there isn’t much intimacy. When Elle and Mari reunited, they did so by kissing in front of many people at church, including some of Elle’s children. Of course, that caused some family conflicts since Elle was still married at the time and her children (although they are adults) did not know of her former lover or that their parents were having issues in their marriage. These public displays of romantic affection (the girls kissed publicly back in the 1960s, which is how they were caught by Mari’s grandmother) were obviously done to inject some conflict in the plot since the characters strike me as people who would take more caution. Elle loves her family and I think she would have expressed herself privately at first in such a romantic way until she had spoken with her family (and Mari later apologized for suddenly kissing her). I liked that Elle and her family eventually enrolled in family therapy and that her family was later supportive of her relationship with Mari. And I do wonder what became of her husband, James, since he also has a secret, which may include a lost love as well and which his children seemed less forgiving of (there is another comic that focuses on this story).
I also wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been caught kissing back in the 1960s. How would their relationship have developed and would they have still been ripped apart? I guess their grandmothers would have found out anyway that Elle and Mari were in love since they spend so much time together, but part of me hopes for that other story, where they weren’t discovered back in the 1960s and were able to stay together since then.
The illustrations have that soft, cuddly aspect to it that reminds me of Moonstruck, except the colors here are more vibrant. Actually, the first time I glimpsed the cover, I immediately thought of Moonstruck, which is why I ended up adding this comic to my TBR and eventually trying it.
However, unlike with Moonstruck, I’m not entirely a fan of the illustrations here. I just wish the colors were a little less vivid.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½
It was good with the kind of ending that made me think of The Notebook (movie). I might track down James’s story to see what his secret is. I’m so curious.