Thursday, April 5, 2012
Wintertown by Stephen Emond
Every winter, straitlaced, Ivy League-bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood best friend who moved away after her parents' divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has choppy black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth exterior, Old Lucy still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
Can opposites attract? Or does growing up mean having to grow apart?
Told from two perspectives, this funny and honest novel by Stephen Emond (Happyface) is a unique combination of text, comic strips, and art. It's an indie movie in a book, perfect for the inner outcast and lovelorn nerd in all of us.
If there's one thing better than a great book, it's a great book with pictures, which Wintertown just happens to be. It lacked a certain "oomph" that would make me scream its praises from every available website, but I still really enjoyed it.
The description is dead-on with its comparison to an indie movie, which is probably one of the reasons I like this book so much and why others may want to throw it against a wall. It walks the fine line between endearingly quirky and just plain twee, but I personally always found it to be the former. The focus is definitely on the relationship between Evan and Lucy, and it's thus not the most exciting or action-packed book ever, but the two have such a complex friendship that it's always an interesting read nonetheless. Because the pair are so close, they have such frequent and wonderful adventures that it's a fun read, but because the changes both of them go through, especially Lucy, are so large and unfounded to one another they have plenty to angst over too. The balance between their shenanigans and emotion makes for an consistently compelling read, and with the cute added artwork and illustrations, my enjoyment grew even further.
A few things I'm less of a fan of, though. Despite the complexity of the relationship between Evan and Lucy, the rest of the characters suffer from the emphasis on the protagonists. Like, I love Evan's friends Marshall and Tim, as well as the added emotional tension added by his father, but the cast appears in such a limited variety of scenery that I never really got the feeling that they were fully developed characters. Another thing that I'm not a big fan of is that there's a strange shift in point-of-view halfway through the book-- although the entire thing is in third person, it mainly follows Evan in the first half but Lucy in the second. I liked being able to see events play out from both their perspectives because of the insight into their characters it allowed, but the switch was so random that I was initially thrown off.
A little more character development would have made me love it entirely, but I still found Wintertown to be an endearingly quirky and emotional read.
Book details: Little, Brown/Hardcover/$17.99