Sorcerers & Secretaries Volume 2
The short series by Amy Kim Ganter concludes in this second volume. (I previously recommended the first book.)
As it opens, Nicole has told Josh that she doesn’t want to see him any more, choosing the perceived demands of her writing over real-life friendships. She quickly learns better, that relationships help your art instead of getting in its way.
Josh, demonstrating unexpected depth for someone previously chasing girls just because he could get them easily, doesn’t let her get away without explaining herself. Once he understands, he immediately gives her appreciation and support. He even suggests something for her to work for: a magazine is having a fiction contest, and he wants to help her submit her story. He loves her creativity and wants to learn more about the world she’s building. (It’s a shame that the story-within-the-story, a generic fantasy quest, doesn’t live up to his praise of it.)
Given that these books exist because of Ganter’s participation in one of Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga contests, the boundary between fiction and autobiography is a bit thin. The characters also have a tendency to tell each other plot events and their motivations in blatant fashion, working in predictable steps towards the eventual happy ending.
In order to pad out the book, there’s a second story that should be a welcome distraction but is even more formulaic. Nicole’s co-worker Susan and Josh’s roommate William have met and begun dating. While Josh and Nicole are friends, and they’re growing to appreciate each other through their tentative honesty, Susan and William have the opposite kind of relationship. They’re playing games, attempting to manipulate each other into getting only what they want, building on sexual attraction instead of knowing anything about who the other person is.
It’s a traditional romance-novel view of male-female interaction, one where the boy has to be tricked into realizing that one committed partner is better than the smorgasbord of sex he’s been wallowing in. There’s a big fight, and it’s not until he thinks he’s lost her that he realizes he really cares for her.
Taken together, the two threads are at best a comfortable read. Who’s against an artist making her first creative breakthrough or couples falling in love? However, the whole thing is presented in two dimensions, missing that special something that provides depth and a reason for readers to invest themselves. Turn the crank, move the pieces, now they need to be here so the threads tie up and everyone gets what they want (or no longer wants it, in the case of Mom’s about-face on her dreams for her daughter).
I had such hopes for this conclusion after really enjoying the first book, but I was disappointed in the feeling that the author didn’t have to stretch for anything, that she took the easy way of making everything work out just hunky-dory. It makes the story forgettable instead of praiseworthy, in my opinion.