Book: a + e 4ever
Author: ilike merey
Published: September 15, 2011 by Lethe Press
The first line: “Aphenphosmphobia, also known as haphephobia, is an extreme aversion to being touched or touching other people.”
Copy Provided By: Publisher
Asher Machnik is a shy, effeminate soul who just wants his junior year at his new high school to go by quickly, painlessly. Terrified of being physically touched (with a real phobia that makes him break down and sweat), Asher throws himself whole-heartedly into his sketchbook, escaping within his drawings.
Unfortunately for him, Asher’s soft features and androgynous look make him a target for the school’s ignorant bullies. But it’s this same delicacy, this fragility, that draws Eulalie to Asher as well. He’s different from anyone she’s ever met before, in a good, but unexplainable way.
Eulalie (Eu for short) is seriously mad at the world–and she’s not afraid to show it. Labeled as a dyke and a freak by her fellow classmates, Eu doesn’t take crap from anyone. But she also understands what it feels like to be alone. When she defends Asher in the lunchroom, the two strike up a fast-forming friendship. They’re both outsiders, they’re both artists, they’re both Jewish, they’re both music fans, but most of all, they’re both in desperate need of a best friend. They need each other.
As the two get to know each other better, Eu develops a crush on Asher, while he, meanwhile, explores his sexuality and tries to overcome his fear of being touched. But will Asher ever recognize that the person who understands him most isn’t in some bar, it’s in Eu? Or will E and A never get to realize what might have been between them?
This graphic gorgeous black-and-white novel perfectly captures the whirlwind blur that is high school. From going to darkened bars that make you feel empty, to concert halls with pounding walls, Merey vividly portrays the challenges and emotional roller-coasters that being a teen is all about.
The art is impressive, with great detail and attention paid to bodies and faces, specifically eyes and lips. Sometimes the backgrounds are blurred, sometimes there are large chunks of text. It is a slightly varied graphic novel experience than the one I’ve experienced before, although no less enjoyable. I love that the story works on so many levels, too. This is a book where readers can read into the book however they like.
And while there are some scenes (and subjects) that are hard to swallow and digest, the book is ultimately uplifting, in my opinion, and it leaves a good taste in your mouth. I was sad when it was over and haven’t been able to get it out of my head for days. In fact, I inhaled the book and stayed awake after I’d finished just staring off into space. It’s been haunting me for reasons that I cannot articulate. It’s certainly not for everyone, though.
a + e 4ever is a highly entertaining and worthwhile read, where readers can lose, and find, themselves all on the same page.
Audience: fans of graphic novels, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning readers (LGBTQ), wallflowers, outsiders, thespians, mature teens and adults
Themes: boy/girl friendships, new kid at school, high school, LGBT relationships, questioning sexuality, love, discovering oneself, recovery/coping, bullying, religion (specifically Judaism), defining (and redefining) gender roles, art, drawing, music/concerts, school play, first love, rape, incest, virginity, phobias and fears of being touched or getting too close to people, self-identity
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