December 29, 2011

Book Review: Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

 Koko Be Good

Author: Jen Wang

Published: 2010

Edition Read: Gifted Paperback

Grade Level Recommendation: High School

Overall: If you're not familiar with Jen Wang I suggest checking out her personal web page, and read some of her sample pages. She has an amazing artistic style and funky sense of humor. Her first professional book, Koko Be Good, is no departure from that. You definitely get the most bang for your buck with Koko.

Summary (Amazon) :

Koko’s always got a new project cooking, even though they usually end in total disaster. This time will be different, Koko promises herself. This time, she’s decided to Be Good. But how can a girl whose greatest talent is causing trouble get her act cleaned up? If she’s being honest with herself, Koko isn’t even sure what “being good” means.

Jon knows what being good means, and that’s why he’s going to Peru to support his girlfriend’s humanitarian mission. That’s good, all right, but is it what he wants? Jon has a promising future as a musician. Is he ready to give that up—maybe forever?

Two very different people, both struggling for direction, find their way into each other’s lives in Jen Wang’s first graphic novel. Honest, wrenching, and incredibly funny, Koko Be Good is a tour-de-force debut about human nature and the inhuman efforts we make to find ourselves.

My Thoughts: I've loved Jen Wang's art and storytelling since her online comic days with Strings of Fate. (Note: You can no long find Strings of Fate on Jen Wang's website, but trust me it was a good story. Especially since you get to see Wang's art style and story telling change throughout the story.)

I received this graphic novel as a Christmas gift. (Other Note: We did a secret santa type gift giving. It was a lot of fun!) I read the entire 300 page novel that same day. Not a huge feat considering that this is a graphic novel we're talking about here, but the mere fact that I was unable to put it down it. While I may love an artist online I haven't read too many full length comic stories by her in quite some time. Reading Koko could have easily been not as enjoyable as I would have hoped. I could have easily decided that her art is great, her story not-so-much, but in the end I really enjoyed the book.

Koko is a quirky character. At times, a bit too quirky, and made me wish that we would fast forward to Jon, the character whose story I was really interested in. Jon is in the middle of a life changing decision. He's chosen to follow his older girlfriend to Peru to help with her humanitarian efforts there. While she is completely invested in this, she is convinced that Jon is not. She tells him almost every chance she gets to think about what it he's getting himself into. Jon and Koko's lives become intertwined when Koko crashes a work party Jon is at, and steals his tape recorder with his girlfriend's letter to him recorded on it. Koko learns about his life and situation, and decides quite on a whim that she will "be good" too. She goes on a journey of self-discovery, and Jon is inspired to pick up something he's missed in his own life, music.

I would really recommend this book to people who enjoy slice-of-life stories. Koko Be Good is a novel all about finding yourself when you're in that stage of life after college and between real commitments. It was relatable, well-written, and the art is probably the best part of the whole book. I can't wait to read what Jen Wang will come up with next.

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