USERNAME: EVIE (a book review)

Username: Evie
MojoFiction may have added some special effects…

First of all, I should point out that Username: Evie is a graphic novel. Occasionally, the talented, and extremely attractive, people at MojoFiction make me read graphic novels. That’s okay, though, because I like comic books in their collected format. I love reading and I love art, so that’s a no-brainer.

But I’ve grown tired of super-hero comics and their never-ending parade of reboots and cross-overs and multiple-universe storylines. It feels like the creatives behind current comics are so in love with their ingenuity, their cleverness in taking existing properties and twisting them in some way, that they have forgotten about characters and story arcs that don’t just involve fancy plot points on a storyboard. It makes me miss reading Astro City (that’s another story entirely). Maybe that’s why The Walking Dead comics were successful.

So, I was happy to snap up author Joe Sugg’s Username: Evie, a stand-alone story, focused on one character’s journey, and not set in any other universe but ours and lacking anyone with a super-power.

The synopsis, which I’ve lifted entirely from the back of the graphic novel, which, I’m sure, is perfectly legal:

“Like anyone who feels they don’t fit in, Evie dreams of a safe place. When times are tough, all she wants is a chance to escape from reality and be herself.”

There’s more to it than that, but the quote covers it pretty well. Evie is a teenage girl trying to find her place in the world. Her dad is a “software pioneer” who has been working on a special project he won’t tell her about. But it’s for her, and it will change her life.

As you might guess, this graphic novel is aimed at teens, though I don’t think that should keep anyone who likes comics and isn’t a teen from reading it. An interesting story is an interesting story.

The novel is broken up into three specific acts that would make a Hollywood screenwriter happy. The first act introduces the main character, Evie. This is easily the best part of the story. Comic books are generally an accelerated storytelling experience – they move along fairly quickly – but in this case the author gets the pacing and the flow of information just right. The character building is affecting and well-done. The world Evie lives in, the people around her, the events shaping her life, are drawn out just enough to give them weight because the story is focused on how these things influence Evie. It may be a tried-and-true storyline, but I found myself buying into the character and wanting to know what would happen to her.

Unfortunately, the second act loses the excellent pace by barreling forward a bit too fast. The author takes the obvious themes about finding your place in the world and bonks you on the head with them. I would have preferred a little more subtlety. You might be able to attribute that to the fact that Joe Suggs is himself a young guy, and teenagers/young adults are apt to be up front and obvious about things. Or it could be the constraints of the format (it clocks in at 180 pages, which is pretty good for a graphic novel). But either way, when Evie discovers her father’s secret project, I wanted to see more time devoted to her experiencing it and understanding it. That in turn would heighten the consequences that unfold when someone else also finds out about the secret project. I wanted to feel like there was more for Evie to lose, that the stakes were higher. But she wasn’t given enough time to love it first, to need it. So the resolution in the third lacks the power it could have had.

That may not bother you too much, though, if you’re in the target audience.

Since it’s a graphic novel, there are obviously others who work on it. I enjoyed the artwork – not too flashy, not too simple. It fit the characters and storyline well. The coloring is especially good. And the layout of each page is well thought out, enhancing the storyline, moving things along where needed, and highlighting important moments. When a comic put together well, you don’t think too much about the layout. That’s a good sign. But I’m writing a review, so I thought about the layout.

So, there you go. A familiar and simple storyline of teenage angst brought to life by a talented combination of author and artists. The youth shows, but maybe some of us could learn a lesson from bold, youthful optimism.

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