AYA by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie [Book 44 of 2010]

I’m going to have to double-up if I want to meet my 52 books by the end of the year goal. So look for at least two of these book reports a week until the end of the year. Yay! First up this week, the graphic novel AYA by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie.

Why I Decided To Read It: Well, my super-awesome writing exchange partner Gudrun strongly suggested it. And Gudrun and I pretty much read whatever the other suggests.

What’s It About and What Makes It Different: What if I told you that there is actually a story about Africa, in which no one dies, and nothing horrible happens? We just get to read the tale of three young adult girls living, loving, and learning in a 1970s era Ivory Coast town. What if I used the words “smart, gentle comedy” to describe this story? AND what if I tell you … wait for it … that it’s currently being made into a movie (with our own Gudrun Cram-Drach on the animation team)?

You’re mind just got totally blown, didn’t it? You didn’t know such a thing was possible. Neither did I, dudes. Neither did I.

What I Loved: Seriously, what didn’t I love? The writing (by my new hero, Marguerite Abouet) is TIGHT. The artwork (by Clement Oubrerie) is PHENOMENAL. The story was so well-told, like Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen had an African love child. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so I’ll just leave off with saying that this is the African story I had been longing for — nay whining for! And you are so lucky if you haven’t read it already, because you are in for a delightful, delightful treat.

What I Didn’t Like: The only thing that I don’t like about this graphic novel is that it doesn’t have Persepolis-level buzz yet. The English translation came out in 2007 and somehow I’m just this year hearing about it — from my friend who moved to France. Hopefully the movie will change all of that. Seriously, if NPR isn’t all over this movie like they were all over Persepolis, I’m ending my monthly donation. You think I’m kidding…

Writing Lessons Learned:

GOTCHA! is awesome. Well, if you read 32 CANDLES, you know I pray at the altar of GOTCHA! Marguerite Abouet prays at that same altar, and I just adore her for it. Even when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. Better than a soap opera, I’m telling you.

Character quirks. Aya has one of the best character quirks I’ve seen in awhile. When someone says something crazy and/or stupid to her, she abruptly ends the conversation. Such a small character quirk, but it’s ridiculously hilarious, and it made me think about how often small, consistent character quirks can make for big laughs.

Complex BFF’s: You know how in a lot of YA stuff, the good girl main character has best friends that can be summed up in one word, like slutty or dumb or sweet or pretty. This is one of the few novels I’ve seen that really delves into the inner lives of the BFFs, painting a complicated portraits as opposed to dismissing them under a one-word umbrella.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Graphic Novel: African-American Readers, Anyone Who Loved Persepolis, NPR Listeners, Young Women, Fans Of 16 & PREGNANT, and ESSENCE Magazine

Click on the book cover to buy the novel!