Glory Fleming is a seventeen-year-old piano prodigy living with her widower father in the Bronx. Frank is the hunky, artistic boy next door, a recent arrival from Argentina. When the two meet things start to go wonky in Glory’s world. Or at least the seem to.
Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral really puts the graphic in graphic novel. The story of two teens in love is told through newspaper clippings, instant message chats, postcards, and the other kind of ephemera that surrounds a life.
It is beautiful.
The book opens with a newspaper report of Glory missing from a mental institution for child prodigies. It seems she’s lost it and instead of creating her classical music/rock & roll mashups during her sold-out performances around the world she’s resorted to incessantly playing “Chopsticks.”
Once we know Glory’s missing, we fall back 18 months to see where things started to unravel. In scrapbooks and photo albums we learn about the death of Glory’s mother, how she was raised by a piano-teaching father who kept her on a strict schedule, how she fell for the cutie next door.
We learn through drawings and letters home from school that Frank excels at art but blows off most of his classes. By reading the duo’s chats we see that Glory’s dad isn’t too keen on this budding romance, and plans to whisk her away to Europe for a year. Slowly we see Glory unravel.
Visually, this book is stunning. The images are dreamy and grainy. There’s links to youtube videos and pictures of the letters home from Frank’s school & Glory’s institution. There are the postcards and chat transcripts and newspaper reviews and mix CDs. And this lovely collage is super engaging to look at. However, there aren’t a lot of words to read which, for a reader, left me a little frustrated at the end.
While I fully realize this is supposed to be some sort of statement about the slippery nature of reality and madness, blah blah blah it feels a little like a cop out. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y but the creators pull a switcharoo sort of ‘it’s all a dream’ kind of thing which feels like a ripoff. Perhaps, the young adults who are the target audience for this book will find the big reveal clever and satisfying. As an adult who has read many a big reveal in my time it felt like a let down. As I was watching the story unravel I kept thinking to myself “don’t do it, don’t do it, you are better than this!”
However, even with a sad trombone ending the beginning and middle is so inventive and fun, I’d still heartily recommend this one. It really is lovely to look at.