Koko Be Good by Jen Wang – A Book Review

This graphic novel, released by :01 and created by Jen Wang, is something of an enigma for me.  On one hand, the story has been done, the characters aren’t very likable, and there isn’t really much in the way of plot, particularly climax.  However, the art is so fetching that I can ignore the previous complaints.

Koko Be Good is about Koko, a young woman in search of herself and willing to do just about any preposterous thing you can think of.  She is the classic twenty-something narcissist, a stand-out among the “me-generation.”  Unfortunately, there is very little character development with her in the way of significant change, and so she fails to ever connect to the reader in a meaningful way.  Jonathon is also a young twenty-something, in love with a woman across the coast and about to move to Peru with her.  He seems lost, unsure of himself, and unwilling to feel true joy.  His quest ends (or begins anew) with a more substantial moment than Koko, but I’m still not sure I like where he finally lands.  Of course, Koko and Jonathan cross paths, and both have an effect upon the other, but in the end, I don’t think either had as substantive an impact as the story would like us to believe.  And if that’s the point … then that’s a bummer.

Obviously, I didn’t care for Wang’s actual story.  But, she is a phenomenal artist with a charismatic style and a wonderful sense of color.  Her layouts are dynamic, her backgrounds are nuanced without being busy, and her characters are refreshingly quirky in appearance.  I would have liked her word balloons to have been more appropriately placed in some panels as they became confusing if reading left to right, but that wasn’t a major hurdle to overcome.  I truly enjoyed looking at this book.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Koko Be Good on the merit of its story or characters, but I would on the rock-solid artistry.

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