Appetizer: Ash is the new kid at McMillan High. He's attracting a lot of attention due to the fact that he looks very effeminate. The only friend he manages to make initially is Eu, a fellow artist. Any potential romantic relationship between the two is complicated by the fact that Ash fears being touched (aphenphosmphobia!) and also has a slightly too touchy-feelie relationship with his sister, Lena. As Ash has his first sexual encounters, experiments with drugs, and starts acting in a play, it becomes uncertain whether his and Eu's friendship can survive.
I was really excited to read a + e 4EVER because of the beautiful art work, but when I actually sat down and did it, I was a little overwhelmed. Generally, I consider myself to be very good at reading graphic novels, but some of the fonts were hard to decipher. At times, I couldn't tell who was talking or thinking. This was unfortunate, especially since a + e 4EVER is a little more text heavy than many other graphic novels.
I personally also had some trouble relating to the content. The drug use and the fact that a character's first sexual encounter occurred while on drugs (and was essentially rape), were really hard for me to read. I completely understand that these are the realities of some readers and I'm so glad they're depicted here, but it made the book difficult for me to read. Even the consensual sex was more explicit than in most YA novels. (It really made me wonder if this was more of a crossover book, intended for adults but picked-up by teens.)
So, my concerns with this book are kind of major, but I'm also passionate about some of a + e 4EVER's strengths: It demonstrates the inadequacies of labeling people, it gives voice to many experiences that are ignored in most books, it's brutally honest and realistic, and as an extension of that, the graphic novel's ending is 100% believable.
So, yeah, I left the book with mixed feelings. But it's a book that I'd love to hear others' thoughts about.
Tasty Rating: !!