First Second Blog Tour: Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu

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Hardcover, 128 pages
Expected publication: May 5th 2015 by First Second
Source: Publisher

Important: Please note that the book does contain scenes of nudity and is appropriate for older readers. No middlegrade audiences and below for this one. (Also, it is super awkward to put this warning because I don’t know what people are confident having their children read. It may be a cultural thing as some cultures are not as sensitive to nudity as others. I don’t know. Basically, use your own discretion.)

Zoe is a young adult, stuck in a dead-end job with a boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate her. (He wears socks to bed.) She has no prospects and is generally unhappy with life, love, and everything in between. She’s the only one at her job who is not working to pay her way through school and the thought of the future is scary to her. She’s deeply unhappy and does not know how to assuage this unhappiness.

I could empathize with Zoe’s sense of limbo and her mental state. I dare say any young adult who is just figuring out life will empathize and to a degree sympathize with Zoe. She meets a writer by chance, is attracted to him and shifts affections (and possibly moves house) almost overnight. But Zoe’s new relationship is not as happy as she would like it to be. Her new boyfriend is much older and much cultured and perhaps much more intelligent than her. At least in an academic sense. His editor is his ex-wife, a beautiful woman who is on part with him where intelligence and culture is concerned. They spend hours ensconced together discussing books, plots, the future while Zoe looks on feeling dumb and young.

Then Zoe finds out a secret–a secret that changes everything. As her boyfriend returns to the self-absorbed fever that broke him and his wife up, Zoe becomes more and more alienated from him. Things ultimately reach breaking point and the story ends with a marvelous twist that is very satisfying.

I quite liked Exquisite Corpse. The art is fresh and piquant. I really like the way Bagieu draws her characters. The story is fast-paced and there’s less room for introspection but the graphic novel does ask pertinent questions about the nature of fiction and the price of fame.

I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Note: The graphic novel was translated from French by Alexis Siegel.