Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Stefania Rudd. I have not been, nor will I ever be, a teenage boy. However, during my own teen years I have dated my fair share, and know that for both sexes the awkwardness of the modern day courting ritual doesn’t cease after the age of 19. In Neil Gaiman’s short story turned graphic novel (via the talent of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’), How to Talk to Girls at Parties, we’re reminded of this ritual, with all the effort, desires, and expectations that come with it. Of course, this being a Gaiman story, nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Even the most conventional of situations have a tendency to twist towards the bizarre.
Smooth-talking and good looking, Vic convinces his shy, less-confident friend, Enn (the narrator of this story) to go with him to a party at the home of a classmate named Alison. After Vic cannot remember the exact address, he relies on his laissez faire instincts, which leads them to a party… only it’s not the party they were planning to attend. When a beautiful blonde named Stella opens the door and is friendly enough to invite them in, after surveying the situation and finding a home full of lovely gals they have never met, they think, what’s the harm in staying?
While Vic immediately starts wooing Stella, Enn does his best to speak to these intimidatingly stunning girls. With an internal push from himself and encouragement from Vic, he starts chatting up a few of them and through their conversation — mainly them talking and him listening — he discovers they are… different from other girls he has met. Almost as if they are not of this world. (Which, to be fair to teenage Enn, most girls are.) It isn’t until his suspicions are confirmed by a fast-fleeting Vic that both guys understand they weren’t just at some random party full of exchange students — they were about to be sucked into something a hell of a lot more.
As if Gaiman’s storytelling wasn’t enough gymnastics for your imagination, twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá take his work to another level in their adaptation. From the cover to the last page the artwork, with all its dreamy and earthy-bright hues, transport you into Enn and Vic’s 30 year-old memories of that fateful day. Rendered in watercolors and lighter ink, the girls are given an ethereal look, with fluid limbs and flowing clothing. Their big doe-like eyes set them apart from the angular shaped and small eyed Enn and Vic, driving home that “girls are not from this planet” conceit. When tension begins to mount, the artwork reflects it with bolder pinky-reds and greens. The artists also do a lovely job laying out the story’s narration and dialogue with careful word placement on the pages, and also in applying things used as descriptors in the story and turning them into details within the art. After reading this graphic novel I can’t imagine Gaiman’s original story without it.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties has been a favorite of mine since its debut in 2006, and it makes me happy to know that it will be discovered by new readers and possibly rediscovered by those who have experienced it in the past. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá take the story beyond anything I could have expected, and bring it to life beautifully. A poetic and relatable tale with a delirious supernatural undercurrent, this book is for those who have ever attempted to navigate an approach towards their respective objects of desire, never once coming out of the experience with any clearer direction of how it’s properly done.
Dark Horse Comics/$17.99
Written by Neil Gaiman.
Adaptation, art, and lettering by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.