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Tough Love

A 130-page graphic novel, Manic D Press, 2006.
Buy from Amazon.

Category: coming-out, slice-of-life.

Author(s): Abby Denson.
Website: Author's site. 0 comment - add a comment.

Brian and Chris meet

This is the collection of a serial published in XY Magazine, which targets young gay men. I can imagine how well received it must have been. Tough Love pushes all the right buttons: Brian is a shy teen, who meets Chris, another teen, at the Martial Arts club which Chris runs at their high school. Their fast friendship develops into something more, amid homophobia from multiple fronts.

On one hand, this graphic novel strikes me as describing all the obligatory steps of gay adolescence--the closetedness, an understanding female friend, homophobia at school, first boyfriend, coming-out, etc. On the other hand, there's no denying that Abby Denson has created moving and engaging characters, who try to find a balance between the way they want to lead their lives and the constraints they have to endure as teenagers.
There's also a balance in the story between grave real-life problems like gay teenage suicide and, on the other side, soap-opera-like episodes, for example when Chris's previous flame comes to visit him unexpectedly.

Denson's art works the same way, in my opinion. It's very simple, with few backgrounds and limited facial expressions, but there's an honesty and a warmth which emanates from that style. The frailty and budding inner strength of the characters are also well conveyed by the sparse lines of the drawings.

The fact that numerous gay youth ressources are referenced at the back clearly shows that there's a militant aspect to this book. The candor and openess with which the story is told should well serve that purpose.

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