Winter Town is a “not-so-epic” romance between two pretty epic friends, featuring some amazing illustrations done by the author. Rating: 4/5
*This is book #1/75 for my 2013 book challenge. It also counts as book #1 for my “New Authors” group-challenge. You can take a look at my different reading challenges here.
Oh man, did I enjoy this book. Winter Town is a young adult novel written and illustrated by Stephen Emond. The story follows two childhood best friends, Lucy and Evan. Lucy and her mom moved away years ago, and every December she comes back “home” to visit with her dad, but really just to see Evan. Together, these two go on wild adventures via their comic book style alter egos. Lucy has always been the cute girl next door, but this year she comes back looking “goth”, black hair and nose ring included. This is a direct quote off the back of the book, “Old Lucy still exists, and he’s determined to find her…. even if it means pissing her off”. Also, the front of the book says, “One boy. One girl. One not-so-epic love story”. As someone who has a love of best-friends-turned-more, I was sold. Obviously. Plus, if he’s going to piss her off, that means it won’t be super cheesy, right?
When I flipped through the book at the bookstore I was so excited to see that it was illustrated. There are comics at the end of every chapter, and the start of every chapter features a two-page illustration featuring that chapter’s setting. One random page will have some drawings on it, relative to the story, that looks like the author/illustrator just started doodling on the page as he was writing. I like that, I like that a lot. I have to say, the illustrations were some of the best parts for me.
I am the first to admit that I like paranormal romance books, and even some fantasy books, where the events and the characters are really, really unrealistic and things happen that don’t necessarily make sense. I can accept that, to a certain degree, because it’s not regular fiction book featuring two regular fictional characters. If you give me a one-shot contemporary fiction and the characters, setting, or situations aren’t realistic… you’ve probably pissed me off. I was so happy that Winter Town was completely realistic. The friendship felt so organic, and real. The supporting characters were lovable, but flawed. While the main characters were secretly-in-love-best-friends they didn’t tiptoe around each other and get weird. They pissed each other off, they fought, and when they made up it wasn’t some big deal. I almost felt like I was reading a real story, but only almost.
I also really loved the writing style. At the end of the book, Emond said that he originally planned on writing in the first person, and I’m glad he switched to third-person. While the book was split between Evan and Lucy’s perspectives, the third-person narrative made sure we weren’t too much inside just one of the characters’ minds. I liked that Emond put character playlists at the end of the book, along with his method behind the comics styles. He also included his email, for readers to send them their thoughts and such. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. So, that along wins him some points.
Like I said earlier, I am all about best friends falling in love. I will ship it 99 times out of 100. And I did ship Lucy and Evan together, I did. But this is just one story that I would have preferred if they had just stayed best friends. The love angle is the one part that didn’t flow right. She had just thrown up from drinking so much, and then they kissed. And, I mean, I could tell that they had feelings for each other, but then once they kissed it got weird. They just didn’t fit well as a couple, and I would have enjoyed it much better if Evan had just been her friend in her time of need. And that’s the other thing, though it’s more of an attack at the Evan character than the book itself. She was obviously making a cry for help, and as her friend he should have stopped comparing “New Lucy” and “Old Lucy“.
I usually stay away from one-shots, because I don’t like stories to end. I always want there to be more afterwards. I want to see the characters live and die, but I don’t want them to ever die because then there really would be an end. So yeah, I don’t ever want stories to end, but this one didn’t even feel finished. I know Emond did it on purpose, you can tell. But it just irks me so much. *Spoilers* One minute we’re being shown Lucy’s perspective and her and Evan are dating, then broken up, then Lucy goes back to her broken home in Georgia, and then that’s it. You don’t hear anything from her again. Then it’s back to Evan’s perspective and he’s in New York and then OMG THERE IS LUCY!!!!!!! And then that’s it. The book ends. Hashtag rude.
If you’re interested in reading my GoodReads updates from this book you can do so here. I must say, they’re quite entertaining. It will tell you exactly what I was thinking on certain pages.