Thursday, February 03, 2022

Happily Ever After & Everything In Between by Debbie Tung

I'm writing this early the morning of Christmas, about a cute little inoffensive book, so I expect this will be short and mild.

Happily Ever After and Everything In Between is a collection of single-page comics by Debbie Tung - they might have appeared somewhere else first, or might have been created for this book; it doesn't say - all about her newlywed life with her husband Jason. According to her bio in the book, she lives near Birmingham in the UK, but the book itself isn't specific about place or country: it could be just about anywhere in the English-speaking world (or even wider than that, if we pretend it could have been translated).

In the Olden Times, books like this were designed to sit by the cash register in a store, looking attractive and grabbing the attention of people in the right demographic or lifestage, or maybe just their friends and relatives looking for gifts for those people. Now I think these books have to make their way in the larger and more difficult online world, hoping for Google juice and that their creators' social accounts drive enough traffic to keep them going.

Either way, it's a nice book. That's what it aims to be, that's what it does: slice-of-life moments that are generally applicable, told with humor and drawn in a slightly cartoony, very relatable style. (I see a little Kate Beaton in Tung's figures, especially in motion - but I think a lot of young cartoonists have a bit of Beaton influence these days.)

Tung and her husband are specific people, but books like this lean into the universality of the experience: getting used to living with someone, being surprised daily by the reminder that you're actually married, buying your first house, not wanting to cook, starting to think about kids, and so on. If you've been a newlywed, a lot of those things will be familiar, and that's what Happily Ever After aims to do: show you Tung's version of those universal moments, in a sweet and fun way.

I found Tung a little more universal than someone like Sarah Andersen (whose Adulthood Is a Myth is about a lifestage two or three steps before this one), which is great for that spot by the cash register but made me want a bit more quirk and specificity. But happy people, and happy couples, are all very alike, and Tung seems to have been very happy when she made this book. There's no way I can count that as a negative. Happily Ever After is sweet and fun and nice: it will be a lovely read for people in that lifestage (or who can look back on it fondly).

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