‘Sup readers? Welcome back to On The Shelf, this week is going to be a little different. I mean, obviously I’m still going to tell you whether or not a book is fantastic enough to be on your shelf, but so far, On The Shelf has dealt with novels, exclusionary of pure gold from the comic book world. FanFest does have a pull list column, written by the super-talented Kevin Carey, and I highly recommend you check that out if you haven’t done so already.
Comics and graphic novels are a storytelling medium all their own, and when I don’t have my head buried in a traditionally-published book, I’m usually devouring a set of trades or graphic novels. Those of you who are firmly inducted into the fold of comics know of Bryan Lee O’Malley. He’s the genius who wrote the Scott Pilgrim series (I know, the movie was good, but the source material is better and you should read it), and standalone graphic novel Seconds. When I heard he was bringing out a new book under Image Comics, I pre-ordered the trade right away and forced myself to wait for it so I could enjoy the first five issues in one go, without having to wait for it issue-by-issue. There is a very important lesson to be learned from pre-ordering here, folks, and it’s that if your pre-order is released on a Monday, Amazon is unlikely to send it to you until Thursday, even with a Prime membership (but any other day of the week is totally cool for a likely same-day delivery! I asked a customer rep named Michael. He was pretty dope). But I finally got my grubby little hands on Snotgirl, O’Malley’s collaboration with jaw-droppingly talented newcomer Leslie Hung, and let me assure you, it’s nothing to sneeze at (I’m really sorry. Making that pun was mandatory. Not editorially, or anything, I just felt the need, deep in my bones).
Firstly, let’s start with the quality of the physical book itself. Image is known for sturdy books (their deluxe editions are absolutely gorgeous. Detailed, glossy, and worth every penny, they know what they’re doing and you absolutely get the best bang for your buck as a result). Snotgirl vol. 1 is obviously only a trade paperback, but the feel and texture of it reveals it’s well-made. It won’t fall apart after being opened and re-read multiple times, plus the glittery letters on the title and the inside flap are the cherries on an already-loaded sundae. The back cover categorizes its content as “CONTEMPORARY FANTASY / ROMANCE / COMEDY / ANXIETY / INFP.” I’m not sure if INFP is a reference to the personality-type, but whatever, I’m ready to fall in love.
Snotgirl follows 25-year-old self-made internet superstar/fashion blogger Lottie Person, a whirlwind of green hair, egocentricity, and debilitating allergies. She’s one snot-crusted snapshot away from being exposed as a mess— while her Instagram and Twitter offer her followers photos of a chic chick conquering the world, privately, Lottie is a wreck. Her long-term boyfriend Sunny decided they’re on a break, her friends suck (#Peasants), and her allergies (and, to be frank, her self-absorbed tendencies) are stopping her from being the queen she knows she is. But that all changes when she meets Caroline, AKA CoolGirl, a new fashion blogger that Lottie feels an instant connection with: she knows they’re destined to be BFFs, screw her old (boring) friends! Caroline and Lottie cross paths again at a bar, but when Lottie spots her ex with a new girl, she has an emotional meltdown that somehow culminates in a murder that’s as bloody as it is snotty. But… did the murder really happen? How come the police haven’t shown up at her door? Why is the dead girl texting her, asking if she’s okay, like she drank too much, snarfed Taco Bell and then puked all over herself? Why is her ex dating a girl who clearly wants to be her? And why are her friends still #Peasants?
Snotgirl is not what I was expecting. Painfully modern (the reality of the current social climate’s general ineptitude and reliance on social media to feel worthy was transferred flawlessly from the real-world to the page) and nail-bitingly suspenseful, Snotgirl is the story I didn’t know I needed until I was too invested to put it down. Fans of O’Malley’s work will be comforted by traces of the familiar, and awed by the tart freshness infused within. I’ll be honest: at first, getting into this feels like diving into an unheated pool at nighttime. A chaotic blur, wondering what is going on, how much time has passed, why did you just dive into that pool, what was the point? But once you break the surface and get used to the temperature, you’ll never want to get out, which is pretty much what happened with this trade.
I didn’t want to pick up the single issues because I knew I’d be desperate for more. I guess the joke’s on me, because the trade did the exact same thing. I need to know what the heck is going on. They say art can make or break a comic, and while the art is on a whole other level of gorgeousness, the dialogue is just as solid, making this an exceptional treat. Snotgirl is an instant favourite, embracing a heavily-flawed main character (despite how obnoxious she is, it’s hard not to love Lottie Person), and poking fun at generational quirks while also baiting readers with a mystery that’s as tempting as a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher. I cannot emphatically recommend Snotgirl to your shelf enough. If you want to get your hands on Snotgirl, visit your LCS or buy it here.