Wow. The first-ever Andi Watson book I’ve been disappointed in.1
I thought the premise of Clubbing — London goth gets sent to stay with her grandparents in the country; she sees it as punishment, we know it’s a chance for her to grow up and learn core values — had potential. Goodness knows it’s well-worn and -loved in a certain kind of teen novel. But both the plotting and the art are mediocre.
Artist Josh Howard is apparently only capable of drawing one teen girl. The lead here, Lottie, looks just like the girl from his previous book, Dead@17. Both are designed to be suitable for posing, but when it comes to sequential art, Howard’s work is static, with no sense of movement or flow. He’s thus best suited for postcards, not comics, or some other format that consists of pinups on a small scale, especially if they require closeups of large, round heads.
As for the story… it goes through several phases, as though the writer was thinking “hang on, that’s not working, let’s try this”. First is the cool socialite introduction: Lottie lives in London, goes to hot clubs, buys the latest, hippest fashions. Much of this is told, not shown (see above for why). From her first page, she’s full of herself, describing herself in first-person narration as looking “like a silent movie star wearing dissolution lip gloss”. Watson seems to have the idea that introducing something — a place, a brand name — to those perhaps unfamiliar with it is equivalent to doing something interesting, a problem that extends to the country travelogue that makes up the next section of the book.
Lottie is sent to her grandparents, misses her internet, and wanders around narrating. Perhaps if I was younger and less familiar with both human nature and England I’d be more intrigued by this. However, although the book makes a big deal out of its foreignness, to the extent of including a translation lexicon of British phrases, I found it all comprehensible. Perhaps I’ve seen enough Britcoms where none of this is unusual or exotic to me. The book seems to be counting on fascination-based-on-unfamiliarity to carry over the rough patches where characters wander in and out with a distinct lack of three dimensions. That’s especially a problem when it comes to the young love portion.
I think Lottie’s self-centeredness is supposed to be charming, or at least have potential, but I found her boring. (If you like this sort of thing, you can find it free on livejournal any time.) And then there’s the ending, in which things take a definite, non-foreshadowed turn into the kind of plot that fueled tons of Scooby Doo cartoons, only here, the monster is real. With more charm, it could have been Buffy-like, but it falls short.
David Welsh, in his review of this title, sees similar problems but is kinder about them. I’m probably being too harsh, just because I had such high hopes given the writer (a favorite), the setting (I’m an Anglophile, too), and the fish-out-of-water premise. Instead of being influenced by her surroundings, at the end, Lottie is the same character. It’s as though she brought her urban goth fantasies with her and forced them on a place they’re not suited to.
The pattern so far with new publishing imprint Minx (although with only three releases, trying to see a pattern isn’t really valid) appears to be that of the Star Trek movies: look for the even-numbered ones. The Plain Janes was ok, Re-Gifters (review coming) was great, this was disappointing. Based on this, I do have hope for the next one in the series, Good as Lily.