This is a qualified rant. I often like to read graphic novels because I like the kinds of stories that graphic novels lend themselves to, which is a fancy way of saying I like superheroes. Of course, there are also graphic novels I like for the beauty of their stories–things like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Persepolis. I like graphic novels because they are often innovative, even though I am not a very visually-oriented person. I often miss important details in the images of graphic novels because I was too focused on the text. So when I heard about Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral, I knew I wanted to read it–but I also knew its format would be challenging for me.
Chopsticks is a graphic novel that feels almost like a collage. It uses photos, drawings, chat transcripts, sheet music, and more to tell a story, without having any kind of traditional narrative structure. Anthony and Corral tell the story of Frank and Glory, two teen lovers. Glory is a lonely piano prodigy and Frank is an artist who appears to be having trouble in school. Through the images, we learn that Glory has become obsessed with the children’s song Chopsticks–the notes F and G moving closer together and farther apart.
Like I said earlier, I’m not a very visual person, so I suspect there were elements to this that I missed. Also, there were a bunch of YouTube links throughout the book and I think I was supposed to go type them in and check them out to continue the story, but… I didn’t feel like it. I don’t know, I’m all about digital media, but I also kind of think that books should stand by themselves. Also, I just tried one, and first of all, I had to type this whole long address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq1HSjZUL5l and second of all, when I got there, it said the video was unavailable. (And I double checked the URL.) Whatever–ultimately I still followed the story without the video links.
For me, a lot of what I like about books tends to be admiration for the way some writers can just capture feelings and events into words perfectly. Chopsticks was different. I was impressed by how well it told a story through images. But ultimately, I guess it felt more like a novelty to me. I don’t see myself re-reading Chopsticks. However, I could see people who are more visual than I am absolutely adoring Chopsticks, and I can definitely see why it has earned so much praise since it came out. It’s a very cool book. It’s just not for me.
Reviewed by: Teen librarian Renata
Recommended for: People who are more visually-inclined