I've been trying to write this review for DAYS! And people keep coming into my office or needing my attention at home. Needy buggers. Let's try this once more...
When I needed a break from my literary fiction challenge, I decided to jump into a graphic novel. I found this one--An Elegy for Amelia Johnson, written by Andrew Rostan and illustrated by Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow--on NetGalley.
I finished it about five days ago, and it's taken me until now (and all those interruptions) to really figure out what I want to say. I could pussyfoot around the issue, but I'll just stay it...
I didn't like it!
First, the positive stuff! The premise is great:
Amelia Johnson has been suffering from cancer for a year and her battle is winding down. She recruits two of her best friends to travel the country delivering messages to her friends and acquaintances from various points in her life. A brother, former boyfriends, college buddies, mentors. You get the picture. The two people she's closest to, that are doing the delivering, are a self-obsessed award-winning documentary filmmaker named Henry and a pensive, uptight writer and former roommate named Jillian.
The premise caught me, but I quickly discovered that An Elegy for Amelia Johnson was not my cup of Jack and Coke. A few things that bugged:
The characters are flat. The characters as they're written are shallow and underdeveloped. Reviewers on a number of comics blogs totally disagree with this and found themselves in tears by the inevitable conclusion, but I felt absolutely no emotion about Amelia's final days and this trek on which she'd sent her friends. The banter and obvious sexual tension between Henry and Jillian is fun sometimes, but it wore thin after a hundred or so pages. It's made clear from the beginning of the novel that Henry wants to make the trip into his next award-worthy documentary while Jillian thinks he's a bit of a jerk. The folks they meet on their journey are varied and quirky and a lot of fun, but I also found them to be an afterthought, so they were never really developed. These peripheral characters could've added a great deal to the overall story arc.
On the literal 2-D side, the illustrations are super-flat. For a story that strives to be emotionally charged, I felt the illustrative style was out of whack. I expected something more stylized, perhaps moody. The characters, as evidenced by the cover, are cartoony and cutesy and left me wanting for something more visually interesting.
While this book just wasn't for me, I'd like to try other offerings from Archaia in the future. When I was skimming reviews of Amelia Johnson, I stumbled onto some promising titles from their backlist, so we'll see how that goes.
If the premise of An Elegy for Amelia Johnson interests you, take a look at this preview to get a feel for the narrative style and illustrations.
Snuggle -- Skewer
Pub. Date: March 15, 2011