True Story, Swear to God: This One Goes to 11
Following up on the events of Chances Are…, This One Goes to 11 begins with a hurricane threatening Puerto Rico while Tom can do nothing but worry long distance about his girlfriend Lily. He’s taking his stress out on his co-workers and family in realistic portrayals of how people distract themselves from big issues with smaller disagreements, punctuated with asides on problems with the media. Such a tense situation, a matter of life and death, drives the realization of the need to make difficult-but-necessary choices.
Even knowing that she made it through ok (because I’ve seen the couple at conventions), the tension is palpable. Lily rides out the storm in her apartment with her roommate (a former nun) and a friend. With little else to do, the women talk about how Lily feels about being in a comic book (referring to the first issue of this series) and the future of their relationship.
The internal scenes are heavily crosshatched, a technique Beland says is inspired by the work of Carla Speed McNeil (Finder). It contributes well to the claustrophobic, dark feel of the apartment, with the power out and the shutters battened against the storm’s fury.
After that, Lily comes to visit Napa Valley, but bad weather and airline delays prevent her arrival for a day. Once she arrives, she has trouble adjusting to non-tropical temperatures and expresses concerns over taking the next step in their relationship. Meanwhile, Tom’s finding that he’s no longer as interested in the day-to-day annoyances of his job. He considers the sacrifices necessary before making a big decision. They’re both honest about their histories affecting their hopes and fears for the future.
I was surprised to see Beland so brutally truthful about sexual issues. Many guys would have trouble being this honest with themselves, let alone to an audience of thousands. It helps ground the book, though, with realistic problems keeping the sometimes fairytale romance from seeming too perfect or idealized. Their relationship is still fascinating, even past the wonder of the original love story.