Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Sweet Tale--Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not)

Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not)
Having read both, "Bookhunter," by Jason Shiga and his crazy puzzle-masterpiece, "Meanwhile," this book is oddly straightforward in its somewhat autobiographical tale of Jimmy and the efforts he takes to follow a woman named Sara to New York City. Don't get me wrong though, by stripping away some of his crazier elements Shiga also creates a very fun and human tale...

The, "(Or Not)," in the title of the book isn't only humorous, it is quite appropriate. This is more a tale of close friendship and awkward moments that can occur when one person feels a certain way and the other doesn't know it. This results in some great moments of discomfort for everyone, and between that and the colorful characters Jimmy runs into on his bus trip out to NYC we get a pretty entertaining tale. Jimmy and Sara are good characters too, being a bit like people you can to relate to but also having clear enough flaws that you know they aren't perfect (Jimmy is a habitual slacker, Sara can be judgmental). It's sweet, not doing the usual romance-tale cliches but also not trying to outright rebel against expectations--the ending isn't the perfect, "Everyone is 100% happy," false fairy-tale, but it does have some hope and hints at a possible sweet future.

One thing that put me off until I realized what was going on is that flashbacks and the present-day switch back and forth throughout the story, with the coloring giving us readers a clue where we are in time. At first I didn't realize this and was wholly confused how Jimmy could be on a bus to see Sara one minute and walking around California with her the next. Speaking of the art, it has Shiga's interesting style that I've found myself to be a fan of but imagine some people might not care for. It is done so that human beings come out simple and cute-looking but the environment and objects are drawn much more detailed-looking, thus creating an interesting slight clash of cartoony-minimalism and detailed psudeo-realistic.
This was a fun read and another great piece of work from Shiga, switching from his sometimes more zany stories to a much more subdued tale of two imperfect people who find love (or not). Sorry, I couldn't myself with that joke.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) if you want to buy it.

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