Book Review: The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang & Derek Kirk Kim

March 11, 2010

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

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