Thursday Review: EXQUISITE CORPSE by Penelope Bagieu

Summary: This graphic novel isn’t technically a YA book, but since it’s about a 22-year-old young woman trying to muddle along in early adulthood, it makes a great crossover title. And because I loved it so much I want to hug it, I’m going to review it here. (How could I not like a book that references the Simpsons on the first page? Let me just say…”Canyonero!”)

Zoe, the protagonist, has a rather underwhelming career as a booth babe at car shows and the like, and when she’s not fending off the ham-handed advances of trade show attendees, she’s at home “enjoying” the company of her somewhat loser-y boyfriend. So, one day, when she meets a rather odd, reclusive, but intriguing man who says he’s a bestselling author, her life gets a little more interesting. And then it gets a LOT more interesting when she finds out what he’s hiding and why he’s so reclusive…

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Peaks: This book was not only hilarious and charming, but the plot had fun twists, and the ending…the ending was just PERFECT. I can’t go into too much detail with spoilers, so I’ll keep it brief. Zoe is a wonderfully relatable protagonist whose life has that jogging-in-place feel that nearly all of us are familiar with, and her inability to resist a tiny infusion of adventure sets the story going in an all-too-believable way. The portrayal of author Thomas Rocher (and the authorial lifestyle) is highly entertaining, and the banter among the characters is so well-written and made me laugh out loud. There is something indefinably very French about it, something I also enjoyed. And the artwork is simple, cute, and down-to-earth, and also very funny. If you like Vera Brosgol or Faith Erin Hicks, you’ll want to check this one out.

Valleys: I don’t really have any valleys to report, per se, except that this one’s probably best for older YA readers (there’s a bit of mature content, i.e., sex and the F-word) unless you are French and lack our American puritanical hangups, in which case, go nuts.

Conclusion: This is another funny and all-around excellent contribution from the world of French comics, which, I have to say, has a lot of amazing stuff going on for all ages. My last review of Last Man: The Stranger was another originally French-language publication, and I’ve been impressed for a long time by animation coming out of France, too. Don’t miss this one–it’s a laugh, and I look forward to reading more from this clearly very talented author.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of First Second Books. You can find EXQUISITE CORPSE by Penelope Bagieu at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

About the author

Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor, graphic designer, professor of humanities, and localization QA tester, so she wears a teetering pile of hats. On any given day, she is very tired. She is the author of the middle grade graphic novel Alexis vs. Summer Vacation, and three YA novels, including the award-winning The Latte Rebellion.


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