a + e 4EVER

Merey, Ilike. a + e 4EVER.  Advance Reader Copy. Maple Shade, NJ: Lethe Press, 2011. Paperback. 214p. $18.00. ISBN: 978-1-59021-390- 2

a + e 4EVER follows a year in the lives of Asher and Eulalie, two gender- and sexuality-ambiguous misfits who find each other on the fringes of high school society.

Ash is an androgynous newcomer to the school where Eu has spent several years unsettling the mainstream crowd with her heavy-metal-listening butch ways. Their developing friendship, built through drawing sessions, raves, and a shared love of alternative music, forms the basis of this graphic novel.

The first chapter introduces us to Ash‘s fear of being touched, born of a long history of unpleasant and non-consensual physical encounters. Later chapters address many more of the emotional and physical abuses that non-gender- and non-sexuality-conforming teenagers face
The visual presentation of a+e 4EVER is as unconventional as its topic—revelations about the protagonists unfold via multiple fonts and drawing styles, giving the book a disjointed and rebellious feel. Readers may conclude that format was designed with more thought to defying convention than to readability, as many of the fonts are nearly illegible, and some of the characters visually indistinguishable from each other. , from schoolyard bullying to rape. Merey handles these topics in a way that brings to mind the UK television show Skins, addressing the trauma that is often ignored with an unsentimental directness.

However, these formatting choices do contribute to a feeling of authenticity, and readers will feel thoroughly immersed in the confusing world of adolescents who are figuring out how to live in a hostile world without any adult figures to provide guidance.
Although the topics of this novel are timely, previously mentioned stylistic issues such as the variety of indecipherable fonts make this a weak graphic novel from a purely technical point of view. Finally, though it does portray the realities of adolescence for many LGBTQ people, it lacks the poignancy and warmth that draws so many readers to similar coming of age titles, such as Craig Thompson‘s Blankets.
a+e 4EVER is suitable for adults and older teens, due to its graphic sexual and violent content. I recommend it for public libraries that already have a sizable collection of LGBTQ-themed YA materials.

Reviewed by Emily Grantz
Learning Resources Technician
Ohlone College, Fremont (CA)

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