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Recently I was given a copy of YA graphic novel a + e 4ever by Ilike Merey from Lethe Press. I am not a graphic novel reader habitually, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I read it in one sitting, and by the end of it two words came to me that described the experience.

Heartbreaking. Beautiful.

I found the art to have just the right level of impressionism to it – emotions exaggerated almost crudely, perhaps from a bit of manga influence. Asher, the boy, is androgynous and beautiful. Eulalie is tall, tough, with long hair shaved on the side. They are complex characters, which I was surprised to find in a graphic novel (I stand corrected on my prejudices now).

Ash is often mistaken for a girl, assumed to be gay, often bullied by the other highschoolers. Eu, on the other hand, is described as a 'lonely, tough-talking dyke'. The two are drawn together by the fact that they're both outcasts, and their bond becomes very deep, very quickly. They are both artists, they like similar music, and in each other they find the support they need to help find themselves.

My favourite thing about this story is the fact that despite the initial labels given to the title characters, they are not what you expect. There comes a moment where Ash and Eu do talk to each other about their respective identities, but rather than finding new labels for each other they shed the labels the world has given them and simply become who they are. In doing so, they take a step towards redefining the very words used to identify them.

I give this book five stars for characterisation, realism, and redefining stereotypes in a genre that seldom takes the risk.

You can purchase a copy from Amazon.com or in e-book format from LGBTBookshop.com. The art is black on white so I think you'd be okay on a Kindle DX, but anything smaller may be a bit tough to really read. The site also has a .pdf version compatible with most computers.

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