Koko Be Good


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The story of two very different people: KoKo, a twenty-something free spirit living her life to the max, and Jon, a quiet average guy who has given up his own dreams to move to Peru with his girlfriend. When the two meet, they find themselves rethinking their own lives.

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Aug 24, 2010

Koko be Very, VERY GOOD !!

In teaching two classes on graphic novels at the annual Ohio Library Support Staff Institute, Koko Be Good came up in both classes. In the first class, it made the ?Top 10 Non-Superhero Graphic Novels (FICTION)? list at Number 3. In the second class, it made it onto the ?Top 10 Graphic Novels of All Time? list.

At first, Jen Wang?s Koko reminded me of Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, as both seemed to deal with, basically, three characters, their relationships, and being Asian in America today. But while Shortcomings is an excellent graphic novel, the main character in fairly unlikable, and as such, there?s a loss of connection with the reader. Koko, on the other hand, does not suffer this fate.

We are taken on a bit of roller coaster ride with the characters. Koko, for example, seems wild and fun at first. Then we see that?s perhaps she?s not a very good person; to her roommates or anyone else. Next, we see her decide to be a good person, and attempt -if somewhat superficially- to do just that. And then we see the real attempts, the self-exploration of who she is, and what exactly makes someone a good person.

We see Koko?s relationships with a young piano player and a restaurant worker, and see their struggles as well ? is being a good person doing what your family expects of you, or doing what someone else thinks a good person should do? Or is being a good person about being true to yourself, and being the best YOU that you can be?

Koko Be Good is subtle in delivering its message, and deep in character development. It is beautifully drawn and realized. It is a full, complete, and wondrous work one would expect after 15 or 20 years of published work, not from someone so early in her career.

In short, Koko Be Good is great work of art.
And, it was easily one of the best novels I read this year, graphic or otherwise.

I look forward to future works by Jen Wang!

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