Book Review: The Eternal Smile

In three very different stories, master storytellers Gene Yang and Derek Kirk Kim pit fantasy against reality, for good or for ill.  Subtle, surprising, and entirely entertaining.  The Eternal Smile delves into our dreams, and the unexpected places they lead.

That’s from the inside flap of The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim.  It’s a short story collection in graphic novel format, and, as the description says, all three are about how fantasy affects reality and vice versa.  The three stories are “Duncan’s Kingdom,” “The Eternal Smile,” and “Urgent Request.”

What I Liked

– If I had to pick a favorite story, it would probably be “Urgent Request.”  The artwork is amazing, and the storyline is quietly affecting from beginning to end.  Janet is empowered by her online experience, even though we know from the beginning that she’s responding to a scam (it’s the Nigerian prince dealio).  It just went in an interesting and unexpected direction.

– The twists of all three stories are pretty ace.  That moment when it’s clear what they’re doing and what the message is just really hit it.  All three got me right in the gut, they were so heartbreaking.

– I like that all three have different things to say about how reality and fantasy go together.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.  But it’s not all good or all bad or any extreme really.

What I Didn’t Like

– The drawings in “Duncan’s Kingdom” and “The Eternal Smile” are kind of garish, but they make sense in the story.  For both, though, it wasn’t until the end that it became clear why they were drawn the way they were.

– I didn’t really connect with the narratives (except for “Urgent Request”).  I appreciate them as art, and I liked the endings, but I was just reading to see what would happen without really caring about the characters.

In conclusion:  It’s a fast read, and the endings pack a wallop, but I’d probably only really call one out of the three stories a good story that I would want other people to read.

POC Challenge:  4/15; YA Reading Challenge 8/75

Book Review: The Complete Persepolis

Since then, this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism.  As an Iranian who has lived more than half of my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth.  This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me.  I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists.  I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.

That’s from the introduction of The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novel that chronicles her coming of age as a young woman in Iran, Europe, and Iran again.

– I have to say, the graphic novel format really suits this work.  It’s in black and white, and the graphics are relatively simple (or maybe deceptively simple), which makes the people and their attitudes the real stars of the story.

– I love, love adolescent Marji.  She’s just such a kid, trying to understand the world the best way she knows how.  She wants to be a prophet, she plays martyr and torture, and she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself.  She is just adorable.

– I also love young adult Marji, but in a different way.  She, too, is trying to find her place in the world, but that story is more heartbreaking because she has to leave home to be safe and then she’s a stranger in a strange land once she gets to Austria, and then she’s a stranger in her homeland when she goes back to Iran after being in Austria.

– I also love her parents and her grandma (love her grandma!) and just…all of the characters/people are very fully drawn, and their motivations are clear.  It’s just wonderful characterization all around.

I just really enjoys books like this and Anne Frank because, honestly, it just shows how similar all of our experiences are, even when they’re vastly different.  War torn countries aside, both stories are about girls becoming young women and so much of that experience is universal.

Sometimes it is hard to really like a book because there is nothing to say except “I like it!  It’s awesome!  Read it!”  But, you know, I like it.  It’s awesome.  Read it!

Women Unbound:  4/8; POC Challenge 3/15