Review: Three Korean fantasy romances for teens
Do you have a teen girl in your library who is obsessed with romance? Does she have a crush on a boy who can’t stand her? Does she try to remain upbeat, even as her young heart is being crushed by rejection? Well, now there are some graphic novels just for them. Yen Press has recently released three fantasy romances by Korean creators which each feature protagonists who are determined to let nothing get in the way of romance–not even if the boy doesn’t like them!
Sarasah, vol. 1
Teen (for language)
Yen Press, July 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7595-3015-7
192 pages, $10.99
Ji-Hae is madly in love with Seung-Hyu…emphasis on "madly." She’ll do anything to get him to notice her, but when she goes too far and he reacts in anger, Ji-Hae is knocked unconscious and awakens in another world. There a mysterious goddess of fates offers her the chance to change her destiny by changing the past. Now Ji-Hae must travel back in time to mend the rift between her heart and Seung-Hyu’s.
On the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss Ji-Hae as a stalker. She’s way over the top in how she shows affection to Seung-Hyu. But Ryang manages to make us sympathetic to her by showing that she doesn’t mean anything harmful by her actions. She truly believes that she loves Seung-Hyu, so she can’t help but shower him with affection, no matter how unwanted it may be. We don’t get to see much of who Seung-Hyu is, but that’s probably because Ji-Hae doesn’t really know him. Book one sets up the time travel story and presents us with a lot of characters–almost too many to keep track of–and then leaves us with a cliff-hanger, right after we discover something important about a character. The references to Korean history are a bit confusing at first, but there is a translation guide in the back and careful reading soon clears things up. Readers who like history, especially when it features lots of handsome noblemen, will enjoy this one.
Pig Bride, vol. 1
KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim
Teen (for language)
Yen Press, April 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7595-2956-4
192 pages, $10.99
Si-Joon got lost in the mountains as a young boy and met a strange girl with a pig mask. Told that he is to marry her to make up for the sins of their ancestors, he agrees, but only because he is starving and the wedding feast looks so tempting. Years later, Si-Joon is a popular boy at his high school for the rich and he thinks the wedding is all part of a recurring dream. That is until his sixteenth birthday when the girl in the pig mask shows up at his dorm…to consummate the marriage!
Huh and Kim’s tale is engaging because the character of the Pig Bride, Mu-Yeon, is so interesting. On the surface, she acts the model of the demure Korean wife of tradition, but when pressed she shows herself to be smart, tricky, and funny. It’s no surprise that she throws Si-Joon’s life in to disarray. Si-Joon is spoiled and often clueless, but he can be forgiven because it’s obvious that his parents raised him to be that way. Even in this first volume, it seems evident that his experiences will mature him. There are three other main characters: Ji-Oh, Si-Joon’s best friend, an intelligent and perceptive young man; Doe-Doe, a beautiful schoolmate of Si-Joon’s who shows one face to the boys and a very different face to the girls; and Mu-Hwa, the bodyguard of Mu-Yeon, who is quick with a sword, but who has trouble understanding the modern world. Readers who like fairy tale type romances will like this one, especially if they also enjoy humor.
13th Boy, vol. 1
Teen (for language)
Yen Press, June 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7595-2994-6
176 pages, $10.99
Hee-So has had eleven other boyfriends, but it’s the twelfth one that she can’t forget. She fell for Won-Jun as soon as she met him and after a passionate confession–on national television!–he agreed to go out with her. Now, though, he’s breaking up with her for no good reason. Hee-So is determined that she won’t give up on a love she is positive is destined and a thirteenth boy in her life won’t make her change her mind.
Lee’s title is the oddest of the three. It starts off as a normal romance tale: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl tries to get boy back. But soon Whie-Young shows up. Whie-Young is a longtime friend of Won-Jun’s, but it is quickly apparent that he is not necessarily…normal. No explaination is given for his strange powers in this first volume, but he’s not the only one acting strange. Won-Jun seems to have secrets of his own. Did he break up with Hee-So because he has a crush on Whie-Young, another boy? Or are there things about Won-Jun that aren’t normal either. Add to the mix another childhood friend of Won-Jun’s, the attractive girl Sae-Bom, a talking cactus named Beatrice, and a television show about fated love, and you have what should be a huge mess. Somehow, though, Lee manages to pull the reader in new and interesting directions at every turn. You aren’t really sure where things are going, but you’ll want to be along for the ride. Readers who like paranormal romances–and who are patient with odd plots–will eat this one up!
All three titles have art that is typical for Korean girls’ comics: gigantic, highly detailed eyes (in many cases larger than in Japanese comics); girlish features on both boys and girls; a heroine who is cute, but not stunningly beautiful and who is usually a good bit socially awkward; and handsome boys who are almost always grumpy and sullen. If you like romance and humor, it can be an addictive mix. The nice part about all three titles is that they also feature strong plots, unique characters and settings, and girls who are determined and forthright. None of the content is particularly racy and the teen rating is appropriate for them. Three excellent choices for libraries looking for new girls’ comics to feed their voracious shojo fans.
This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Yen Press.
About Snow Wildsmith
Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.
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