Jen Wang's first graphic novel, Koko Be Good, is about two unlikely friends trying to be better than they think they are by glomming on to others and one tag-along second-stringer who knows who he wants to be but feels pressured to ignore his passions.
Koko, an eclectic 20-something, has been living for herself for a while, the rest of the world be damned. Jon is giving up his love of music and every other semblance of his own identity to follow his older lover Emily to her homeland of Peru. Faron is an amazing youngster with acrobatic talents, a strong guy punch-and-kick combo, and a love for musicals that he feels marks him as less than manly.
When John and Koko haphazardly meet, their lives change and they begin to understand their true callings. Koko decides to "be good," whatever that means, Jon decides to live his own life, and Faron, ever along for the ride, at least decides to embrace his loves.
The book works and works well. While I don't think we're supposed to resolve that "being good" means being true to one's self -- not exclusively, anyway -- Wang captures a sort post adolescence zeitgeist for the 21st century like Dan Clowes' Ghost World did for the late 20th.
The earth tone-based coloring is amazing. The entire text feels like terra cotta. The palette ranges from an eggshell white, through a host of oranges and browns, to wet charcoals and the occasional inky black. Matched with an expressionism for characters and a realism for scenery, the art alone is worth the experience of reading the book. But, the story is just as enchanting.
Labels: Jen Wang, Koko Be Good