Friday, December 16, 2022

Simon & Louise by Max de Radigues

It's the beginning of summer, somewhere in France. On the last day of school, teenagers Simon & Louise - we think they've been dating for a while - promise to stay in touch and stay together over the summer, even though they'll be physically apart for the next two months.

And then we get two parallel stories: first Simon, then Louise. There are a couple of moments where they intersect, but they are physically apart for the summer. And, as so often with teenagers, what they promise blithely together does not exactly turn out the way they expect.

That's Max de Radigu├Ęs's bande dessinee Simon & Louise: the original French edition is from 2017 and this English-language edition (translated by Aleshia Jensen) came out two years later.

Before I get into more of the plot, let me say both Simon and Louise are generally good kids. I mean that specifically: given the chance, they tend to make good decisions, are concerned about other people, care about each other and not just themselves. But they are teenagers, and have all the blinders you might expect. They forget important things, go after their goals in the wrong direction, and - more than anything else - don't know quite what they want or how to get it.

The main plot for Simon's section starts when he see's Louise has changed her Facebook status to "single," right after she went to Montpelier for the summer. He calls her immediately, and she gives him a reason for it. Simon - again, a teenager - decides to go for a grand romantic gesture, and the rest of his section follows the results of that decision. I won't say more, but it fails to go in any of the ways he expects, right from the beginning.

Louise's section begins in the same moment, and we see why and how her Facebook status changed. And then we see her tell Simon the same reason she did in his section, and know it's not, strictly speaking, true. She also has an eventful summer in Montpelier, in different ways than Simon does.

There's a lot of activity and moments in Simon & Louise, but it's not an inherently dramatic book: we get the sense that, whatever happens to "Simon & Louise," both Simon and Louise as people will be OK. They'll get better at this dealing-with-other-people, living-in-the-world stuff.

de Radigu├Ęs gets a lot of life from a fairly simple style here: his people have mostly dot eyes and small features, their bodies mostly slim and minimal, their motions realistic. His lines are organic, not quite straight, even in his panel borders, and they tend to be all of a medium weight and placed crisply in one position.

I think this was aimed at teenagers, for the obvious reasons, but it's not a problem book and there's no reason adults can't read it as well. We've all been Simons and Louises in our day, and our day might well still be "today."

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