Steady Beat Volume 2
I enjoyed the first volume of this series, although I was concerned that maybe a bit too much was being attempted — it seemed that the book had more plots and revelations than it might have space for. Things are much more focused here in volume two.
It opens with a return to the key plot points, re-introducing the Texas suburb in which Leah lives, complete with expectations of church attendance and hidden secrets. In a few quick conversations with her mother, her sister, and her friend, everything’s reestablished for the reader (although a brief digression into fourth-wall-breaking during the sequence left a bad taste for me; having the characters call themselves stereotypes and “clichéd soap opera” doesn’t address any of those criticisms (much as I disagree with them)).
That’s a lead-in to Leah and friend sneaking off to a pool where college students hang out. There, Leah sees her sister Sarai, which reawakens her questions about whether Sarai is gay. A chase scene follows, handled at a particularly odd pace. While events are speeding up for Leah, and thus excitement is presumably building, the author interrupts the story to write the readers a note about how she views her hometown.
The whole book’s like that. The short chapters are interspersed with Leah’s diary entries and pinups. Overall, it creates the feeling of sharing Leah’s life, her questions and explorations. Life isn’t linear; it takes moments of reflection and events happening at a pace you might not find predictable.
The theme of accepting diversity is much more strongly established here, and it’s all placed within the context of family — how people meet and build them and break them and re-form them. Elijah, a potential crush, reappears, trying to help Leah answer some of her questions. Elijah’s two fathers are an immediate case study for her to use as a comparison and a chance to learn something other than what she’s always known.
The art is strong, professional, and beautiful. There’s much more of a sense of place in this volume, whether it’s the use of a particular Austin, Texas, location or Leah’s Texas flag swimsuit. The open, airy look helps keep the serious story entertaining and thought-provoking instead of depressing. The book ends on a questioning note, but one that’s to be applauded.