Rock and Roll Love

The artist who calls herself Misako Rocks has reissued her quasi-autobiographical Rock and Roll Love (previously released by Hyperion in 2007). It’s about her trip to the US as an exchange student, where she meets a guy in a band.

Because she’s basing the story on her own life, the telling is unstructured and wandering. She decided to learn English and go to America because she had a crush on a pretty-boy rock star she saw on TV. It’s hard to criticize someone’s real-life choices, but that strikes me as shallow, an impression borne out by how she portrays herself as a character. The emotional roller coaster she goes on is tiring and frequently changing, so much so that the character seems even younger than she is.

Potentially interesting observations about how American kids of the same age seem more grown up are cut short in favor of affirmations like “Yes, I can do it! Anything is possible!” Challenges such as struggling in class due to the language difference are glossed over in a couple of pages with a note that she worked harder. Way too much is packed into this book, so nothing gets the space it deserves a a character moment or story point. Good autobiography is formed in the editing, and there doesn’t seem to have been much of it applied here.

Misako knows she falls too easily and gets too emotional, but she keeps doing it anyway. The message, that if you want something bad enough and work hard, you can make it happen, isn’t one I’d want other kids to internalize, because it’s so unrealistic. She’s clearly not mature enough for a relationship, but instead of showing that from the perspective of the author, looking back, I get the impression that Misako is caught up in how fun it was to be that young.

I wish we got to know Natalie, her 16-year-old host, better. All she is is a voice in the background saying sensible things, such as “Calm down a little bit, okay? You’re too excited.” But we never get enough of an idea of her motivations to see her as a three-dimensional character.

The art has plenty of shading, which gives the book the feel of reading someone’s diary sketchbook. The lettering is computerized, Comic Sans, which isn’t the most professional choice. The images are mostly focused on faces and emotions, as inspired by the shojo manga style.

I hate to be so harsh when it comes to someone’s life, but this was an unfocused, unsatisfying read. (The artist provided a review copy.)

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