Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: The Hipless Boy by Sully (Sherwin Tjia)

Description: Say for a second you’re just a normal person. You live in a hipster neighbourhood but you’re not a hipster. You’re hipless. This the premise behind this collection of interlinked stories done in a graphic novel format that originally found life as a weekly column in the McGill Daily.

The protagonist here tries to live his life like an open heart, and a curious cat, meeting and mingling with a collection of Montreal oddballs. He finds love, loses love, learns to like cross-dressing, and finds something else. Along for the ride are his best friends Minerva and Owen.

The short stories collected here reveal an inter-woven community of new adults, struggling to find families of their own making. 

Stats: Adult Graphic Novel, 224 pages, First Published by Conundrum Press, June 2009.
Audience: 16+ (sex, shock factor)
My Rating: 4 STARS

When reading The Hipless Boy the first thing that struck me was just how much this felt like a memoir. The stories told in The Hipless Boy feel like they've been plucked from someone's life. When I got to the end and was reminded that this is indeed a work of fiction I was that much more impressed by it. Each short story in the collection is very well executed. So often realistic fiction in graphic novel format can come across as manufactured, but you can see a lot of thought went into each moment to create the story of The Hipless Boy. There is a lot of humour, a lot of frankness, and a lot of sincerity.

The graphic novel itself has an interesting format somewhat alternating between panelled short stories and illustrated pieces of text. It's a very wordy book, full of description and musings, but I was so enthralled by the storytelling that I didn't mind the word-to-art ratio. The art stands out well on it's own. Contrasting with the bright orange cover, the pages inside are all shaded in blue. Each page has depth and detail as well as keen attention to the storytelling at hand. I think that's what made it all work for me. There was no one reliance, it wasn't all on the words telling the story verses the panels telling the story, it's only together that you get the full picture.

The stories themselves had my attention from page one. The dialogue and conversational narrative has a friendliness to it. You want to have friends like these characters. The creative, crazy environment made each story that much more interesting. As someone who lives on the far west coast of Canada, the setting of this book being in Montreal made it that much more fantastic to me. It shows you the culture of creative types in the city and gives me a peek into a world I will probably never seen first hand.

Something I also appreciated was all the material at the very back of the book. There you'll find a story-by-story creator notes of his why, why-nots, and thoughts on the story. Reading through them makes me want to go back and re-read the entire book. I'm a very busy reader, anything that makes me want to do it all over again is something wonderful to be sure.

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