It's strange really. After almost a month gathering dust to one side, I finally got started on all the small press comics from True Believers. What's stranger is, since picking the first one up, I find myself unable to stop.
This week, the only thing I could even consider looking at was House Party by Rachael Smith.
House Party's premise is all in the title. Three twenty something are struggling to adapt the life, discovering that their dreams and realities do not exactly appear to be compatible, Michelle, Neil and Siobhan are all feeling down about the the trajectories their respective careers have taken. However, upon going through some old photos of themselves, the three realize they were much happier at this time and resolve to make themselves happy by being young, and hosting a house party.
I have to say upon reading this it occurred to me that this book shouldn't have been mid way down the reading list; it should have first!! (or at least second.) Rachael Smith's debut graphic novel (as the credits in the back state) is a truly wonderful, almost coming-of-age like tale that's so superbly written it's yet another reminder to me (the first being Alex + Ada) that epic set pieces or loud panels are never needed to be a truly compelling story. The plot was heart wrenching as it followed Michelle (and to the lesser extent Neil and Siobhan) struggle to find her true place and contentment within a life far removed from what she envisioned in her dreams.
I think everyone has been there, thus giving them an emotional connection to the story. Of course, that would be for naught if the characters were poorly written, but here that is not the case. The case in point is Neil, who isn't written as a stereotypical bad guy despite his awful actions in the story (I'm trying not to spoil). In my opinion, this is the toughest thing a writer can do and Smith nailed it beautifully.
Speaking of beautiful though, the artwork deserves just as much praise as the writing. From cover to cover, the Scott Pilgrim-like style really suits this book, with quirky little moments (like the note alluding to Michelle's epic flashback) given it a unique kind of humour. Meanwhile, the guest art gallery in the back pages is just the icing on the cake with many great artists (some of whom I don't know, but wish I did) contributing their takes on the characters throughout the story,
I really enjoyed this book and do hate myself for not reading it sooner. It was an engrossing story which also hit me as very thought-provoking. If I have any regrets regarding this book, it's that I didn't hear about it before True Believers.