I love finding graphic novels that step outside readers' expectations for the medium. As I've written here before,
not all GNs are geared toward teens or involve fantasy. Although I'm
huge fan of the Fables series, I like to see what else is happening in
the graphic novel world.
The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff shows us just how moving a graphic novel can be. From the beauty of the art to the depth of the story, this book dispels the belief that comics are for kids. In fact, I was so taken with Novgorodoff's newest that I chose it for my March selection for the Bloggers Recommend newsletter, which will be sent to your inbox in just a few days.
- So what's it all about? Deshi Li is obligated to find his late-brother a ghost bride with whom to share the afterlife. Meanwhile Lily Chen decides to escape home before she's forced to marry an elderly businessman, which will turn her family's fortunes. After the two meet, their paths no longer seem clear-cut.
- Setting and major theme: Set in modern northern China, The Undertaking of Lily Chen explores what happens when ancient traditions are carried into the twenty-first century. Both Deshi and Lily are bound by filial duty yet cannot shake their strong sense of self or their personal dreams.
- The art: The theme of blending old with new is carried through to Novgorodoff's beautiful ink and watercolor paintings. The influence of Chinese art styles is seen especially in her landscapes, while the characters have a distinctly modern feel.
- What I liked: Deshi and Lily grow and change from their experiences. Novgorodoff successfully injected humor into a book that deals with serious themes. The story made me think and transported me to a different place. Although The Undertaking of Lily Chen has firm foundations in China, Deshi's and Lily's struggles have a global appeal. And, finally, I love Novgorodoff's artwork.
- Overall thoughts: The soft colors, expressive paintings, and sparse text create an otherworldly feel to Deshi and Lily's haunting journey, which leaves us questioning the inevitability of destiny. A don't-miss graphic novel.
- Note on the scan: The scan is from page 285 and was picked to give you an example of Danica Novgorodoff's work without spoiling the story. All rights remain with the author.
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
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