A Boy And A Girl is a funny, thoughtful, touching, futuristic, romantic graphic novel that takes an deeply unsettling turn near the end. It is romantic, but it is not a romance novel, which is very important to know.
It’s hard to review this book because it’s full of twists that I don’t want to spoil. It’s also hard to review because the ending threw me off so completely in the last 12 pages that now I’m like a little gif of confusion and panic. And yet I still want everyone in the whole world to read it, because so much of it is so good, but I want to warn everyone not to read it, because the ending made me so unhappy.
A Boy And A Girl is about two people who meet at a very strange party in the semi-distant future. There are flying cars and other futuristic elements, but honestly the world works pretty much like it does now. The biggest change is that there are robots who look like humans and act like humans. You can order one up and have it represent your dead mother if you want to – in fact, that’s how our lovers meet. They are at the party of a guy who is about to introduce his dead mother’s robot replica to all his friends.
Travis falls head over heels for Charley, the woman he meets at the party, and there’s a lot of fun romantic comedy stuff about him trying to find her the next day. It turns out (early on, so this isn’t a big spoiler) that Charley is leaving town, so they go out for one night of fun and adventures of the G rated variety. The formula is pure romantic comedy, and it’s romantic comedy at its finest with lots of physical comedy and excitement combined with slower moments of connection and high emotional stakes.
My difficulty here is that I don’t want to spoil anything for you, and the book has several twists. Without giving any plot things away, here’s what I can tell you:
The art is lovely – black and white and blue. It’s interesting, clean, and futuristic, and warm. The ideas are challenging and the emotions are powerful even though it’s a “one crazy night” time frame. Charley’s ethnicity is not mentioned, but she’s clearly a person of color. I always appreciate diversity and I also appreciate the fact that she’s fit but not rail thin or bizarrely proportioned – she looks like an actual person, as does Travis. Travis seems like a bit of a feckless guy initially, but he shows an enormous capacity for acceptance and maturity. Charley is something of a manic pixie dream girl, but ironically that’s because she’s incredibly responsible – this is her last fling before she “gets the call”, implying she’ll be doing some kind of service for years.
Charley and Travis don’t know each other long enough to get past infatuation, but they are clearly made for each other. I loved their banter and their chemistry and they way they dare each other to do fun, crazy stuff and their deep conversations. I love the way they accept one another – totally and without reservation. I could happily spend hours reading about them watching TV.
From this point there are spoilers but I’m trying to keep them vague. I won’t tell you what happens but I’ll tell you how I felt about it in great detail.
Right up until page 144 (the book is 163 pages long) I was sure everything would be OK, even though I couldn’t figure out how.
Everything is not OK. There’s no HEA and there doesn’t seem to be a sequel coming up that will fix things.
Here’s a list of my feelings about the ending:
2. Horror and disbelief
3. A sense of, “Well of course why didn’t I see that coming?”
4. A desperate need to fix this this sudden catastrophe, causing me to spend tons of time online trying to find out if there’s a sequel. There isn’t, as far as I can tell.
5. A deep need to take to my bed, clutching my cats and weeping copiously.
6. A mingled sense of being impressed by the writers for tricking me so very elegantly and wanting to beat them to death with their own book.
That’s metaphorical – no actual threats here. What I’m trying to say is: I felt many different feelings very strongly.
So how I grade this? Do we have a grade that says “I adored most of the book but then I was lost in a wave of existential despair?” Is there a grade for “Actually that horrible ending is very clever on the part of the authors but I feel totally betrayed so I hate it anyway, screw their literary achievement?” What grade would that be?
I listened to one of SBSarah’s podcasts in which she and Jane from Dear Author talk about what to do when the ending is bad, and they both usually give the books of that nature a C grade, so that’s what I’m doing.
The only catch is that I think at least some of my problem with the ending was one of expectation and preference. I’m pretty sure some readers would think the ending is brilliant. It’s surprising, but it makes sense when you reread the book (yay for clues). It makes you think. Some people might even think it’s bittersweet. It’s not simply “bad”. But since we here at Smart Bitches love an HEA, and since the tone of the book led me to expect one, I’m going with that C grade albiet with very mixed feelings.
Here’s my advice, dear readers. Read this graphic novel. You’ll love it. But do not finish it. Go until page 144 and then make up an ending. This story is too good to miss and too sad to finish.