Fool’s Gold Book 1

I wanted to like this more than I did. That’s not a criticism, per se, but a recognition that I had incredibly high expectations based on early preview chapters. I expected to love it, but due to my high expectations, I only liked it. The full book had lots of wonderful, creative ideas but ended up falling back on more standard plot elements.

Penny’s an individual, making her own clothes and dreaming of a career in fashion. Best friend Katie is spending too much time with her jerk of a cheating boyfriend, who repulses Penny.

Fool's Gold Book 1 cover
Fool’s Gold Book 1
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In an early scene, Penny is inspired by a fall day to create a leaf-patterned jacket. Interrupted by her father, she’s criticized for not living up to her potential, but she already knows that she only wants to be a fashion designer. This is a common manga conflict — parents want child to achieve, child wants to follow creative dreams — expressed clearly and with personality.

I’d love to read more about Penny’s drive to achieve her goal, but the book instead becomes about Penny protecting other girls from jerks. Suddenly, she’s being seduced by power, although she doesn’t realize it, and falling in love with the mysterious new boy in school. Teaching others to stand up for themselves is an admirable goal, and she uses the intriguing metaphor of pyrite (“fool’s gold”) for her lessons, but I wondered what happened to the Penny who wanted someone to kill her if she ever became all about boys. If this was a comic series, it would be as if the editor changed midway through and the new one dictated a change in direction to put their own stamp on things.

Of course, there’s the lying, scheming evil girl to serve as contrast and villain, whom no one suspects, unbelievably. If Penny and her growing gang were all about seeing through false behavior in boys, why couldn’t they recognize the same behavior, especially when expressed less subtly, in a girl? For drama and an end-of-volume cliffhanger, apparently.

The art’s excellent, combining the best of manga storytelling and American figure design. The costuming-related plot makes it a perfect choice for comics, as Hadley can show the design and dresses Penny creates. She elaborates on some of her outfits with commentary at the back, too.

I’ll look for the next volume in hopes that the creativity shown early on in this book is allowed once again to flourish. Amy Reeder Hadley has a website with a section dedicated to Fool’s Gold.


8 Responses to “Fool’s Gold Book 1”

  1. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Potpourri Says:

    [...] Some reviews to check out: At Standing and Reading, Ginger reviews Legend of Chun Hyang, a single-volume manga by CLAMP. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna likes Fool’s Gold but feels it didn’t quite live up to expectations. And Noah Berlatsky of the Chicago Reader reviews Nana but also gives a bit of a dissertation on manga. He has clearly done his homework, although I don’t agree with his statement that shoujo manga are the new romance comics (especially when he lumps them in with Chobits two sentences later). It’s a thoughtful review and a nice counterpart to the Bento Physics analysis. [...]

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] If you liked Fool’s Gold or Scooter Girl, you should enjoy this movie — there are a lot of similarities. [...]

  3. Dee Says:

    So is this series good?

  4. Lisa Says:

    I loved this book, and I am excited for more in the series. If you want it to return to the old Penny, I’m guessing that it will later, but she is obviously pre-occupied with being a high school girl. If you have gone to High School, I think you will enjoy this book.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Christopher Butcher also has a good review of this title.

  6. Tokyopop OEL — Able to Create a Satisfying Ending? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] its third book conclusion. Anyone want to tell me whether it was satisfying? Then there’s Fool’s Gold, which disappointed me from the beginning (due to my excessively high expectations) but may wind up [...]

  7. Fool’s Gold Book 2 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] out, several months ago, and I didn’t have much to say about it. It continues the story from Book 1 in expected [...]

  8. Women in Comics Roundtable » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] to talk about the state of women in comics. Along with me, he interviewed Rebekah Isaacs, Amy Reeder Hadley, Angela Paman, and Julia [...]

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