Saturday, August 7, 2010
Books 107: Happyface
Stephen Emond is back. The wonderful writer who brought you Emo Boy, takes you away this summer with the most engaging story. It doesn't hurt that the book is an illustrated diary that ranges from comics to more fleshed-out drawings. The story is whimsical, thoughtful, slyly sarcastic, and pain-stakeningly beautiful.
Naturally, the story is about a boy. Actually, a very shy, artistic sophomore who is awkwardly coping with life from the sidelines. When tragedy strikes and tears his family apart, he finds himself living in a ratty apartment with is newly sober Mom and attending a new high school. Pasting that big smile of his that everything is OK and being the class clown can only take him so far. It works, sort of. Surrounded by popular friends who don't know his real story. There is also the baffling beautiful Gretchen who keeps giving him mixed signals. And then, all those feeling he's bottled up come like an avalanche, and Happyface is left a chance to come clean. Emond does this all in his special way. His writing is funny, intimate, quirky, wrenching and of course really makes the reader feel exactly whats happening.
Stephen Emond is the creator of Emo Boy, which ran for 12 issues and two collections, and the comic strip, Steverino. He grew up in Connecticut, where he wrote and directed a public access sketch comedy show that only his grandmother watched, or so he claims.
"I went with a darker character-piece called HAPPYFACE. The idea was that a kid suffers a terrible tragedy, puts on a happy face and swallows all the pain. With time the cracks would show and ultimately he'd explode. What exists now as HAPPYFACE has the same general concept, but is not nearly as dark and moody as I'd intended. I pictured seething rage and contempt in every page, but the biggest change came when I decided to use art in the piece." Emond explains about his new novel, HAPPYFACE.
Check your library in the new book section at the YA part of your library. You'll be glad you did.