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Derek Kirk Kim – Same Difference

September 23, 2013

72. Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim (2003)

Length: 94 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Contemporary Fiction

Started/Finished: 08 September 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Random browsing, and the fish on the cover caught my eye.

Everyone makes some
mistakes, but we don’t always
face them in person.

Summary: Simon and Nancy are twentysomethings living in California, still in that phase in their lives where they’re trying to figure out who they are and who they’re going to be, even when it seems like others around them are growing up and moving on. They both have secrets – not big, earth-shattering secrets – but smaller things, things they’ve done of which they’re ashamed. For Simon, it was turning down a date with a blind girl for the wrong reasons, and for Nancy, it’s the fact that she’s been answering love letters sent to a previous tenant of her apartment. Then a trip to Simon’s hometown gives both of them the chance to come clean – not only to the people they’ve wronged, but maybe more importantly, to themselves.

Review: I’ve seen people complain that there’s not enough book to this book. And, from one way of looking at things, they’re not wrong: it’s short, less than 100 pages, and is more of an extended slice-of-life vignette than an intricately plotted novel. It also doesn’t involve life-or-death situations or any grand themes, and represents maybe 36 hours in the lives of two fairly self-absorbed young people. But even though it is short, and even though it is fairly simple, it’s also one of the most emotionally honest graphic novels I’ve read. It is simultaneously funny and touching and honest, and the dialogue sounds like they way real people talk (at one point, Simon and Nancy are bantering about what “Oriental Flavor” Ramen tastes like, if “Chicken Flavor” tastes like chicken and “Beef Flavor” tastes like beef, and she leans over and bites him to taste; and I can absolutely see that exact same conversation happening between me and my friends at that age.) The story feels very real; not everything wraps up neatly, but yet it’s still satisfying. And let’s be honest; most of us are not dealing with epic events on a regular basis, but I’d bet that everyone has some things they’ve done in the past that they’re not proud of, and can relate to the protagonists’ confrontation with their own less-than-exemplary behavior. I liked the artwork as well. A few of the panels were a little bit busy for my tastes, but Kim has a real talent for capturing an incredible range of subtle emotions in the faces of his characters… and a lot of the heart of the story plays out through the drawings just as much as through the words. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Slight, but very good, and packs more of a punch than you might expect. Definitely recommended to anyone who likes contemporary graphic novels.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf

First Line: “…y’know what I wanna know? Now that we’re in the new millenium, where’re all those great inventions we always see in sci-fi movies?”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2013 10:46 am

    I can see why the cover caught your attention. The book sounds good to me.

  2. September 23, 2013 7:24 pm

    I always want more contemporary graphic novels, but it’s good to be warned in advance that it’s a slice-of-life situation. In fact I think I am more tolerant of slice-of-life comics (given advance notice) than of slice-of-life books. Because comics can actually give you a slice of life. With books, the length means it has to be a whole cake, and then I expect it all to feel more complete.

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