BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

Koko Be GoodWhen I first read Jen Wang’s spirited debut graphic novel, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how quirky, unique, and just plain delightful Melanie Griffith once was in Jonathan Demme’s 1986 film, Something Wild. Not that the plots are overly similar, but that contagious wild-child spirit infuses both works … making them both such fun adventures.

Jon’s long-distance relationship is finally about to become local … or, rather, global, as he is three weeks from quitting his job, reuniting with his girlfriend, and moving with her to Peru. Quite an unexpected commitment from a guy who’s never even left the country before!

While out for drinks with co-workers, he gets his anachronistic tape-recorder (with a very important recording on it) stolen by Koko, who happens to be putting on quite an acrobatic, high-flying show with her underage friend Faron. Turns out Koko is a bit of an exhibitionist, a free-loader, not to mention a peripatetic whackjob; she’s also ingenious, imaginative, and irresistible. When Jon and Koko meet again, an onlooker remarks, “You feel that? Something magical just happened.” Thanks to Wang, yes, this debut is magic indeed.

Koko decides being “Good” is her future: “I’m going to be the hero I was meant to be.” Inspired by Koko’s spirited world view, Jon decides it’s time to take charge of his own life, as hard and painful as that might be. And Faron, too, realizes that hiding his love of musicals or getting sent away to work for his uncle in Austin is not going to lead to a meaningful future anytime soon. Three lives, multiple intersections, unlimited possibilities …

Wang’s fabulously energetic drawing style keeps the characters in constant motion as their lives change and evolve in unexpected and surprising ways. From flying dishes to street demonstrators to runaway wheelchairs to tearful goodbye kisses, Wang’s careful details create an irrepressible brave new world of lost souls hoping to find meaning … and each other. Wang is simply WOW.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010


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