Summary: Grace Kwon is about to find out the hard way after she breaks a haunted pinata on her 19th birthday and her “other selves” appear. But it just may be the dark secret she’s kept hidden about her younger sister, Lily, that stands between Grace and her past, present, and future. From multi-award-winning writer Derek Kirk Kim (“Same Difference”, “Flight”, “Fables: 1,001 Nights of Snowfall”) and acclaimed indie artist Jesse Hamm comes a heartwarming tale about finding yourself – well, yourselves!
Good as Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm 7.5
Another Derek Kirk Kim (‘The Eternal Smile‘, ‘Same Difference and Other Stories‘) book, another winner. This time, he takes us to high school through the eyes of last year student Grace, as she celebrates her 18th birthday in the park with her friends.
After the party, she realizes that she forgot a shirt that her friend Jeremy gave her and goes out looking for it. In the dark, she finds a lost little girl, then saves a woman drowning in the lake. Then, out of nowhere, comes an older lady berating them.
Could the evening get any weirder?
It can: it turns out that all three women are Grace at different stages of her life. For some inexplicable reason, they have appeared in Grace’s timeline and she will have to spend the coming days saddled with them, all the while trying to figure out how to send them back from whence they came.
The following day, Grace tries to tell Jeremy what happened, but he doesn’t believe her – small wonder why. But he doesn’t even clue in after the other Graces start to hang out with her at school (which no one questions, strangely enough – not even the school’s staff).
Um… what does it take? And why doesn’t she point out the other Graces to him as proof?
This left me wondering about Kim’s commitment to the plot… Why wasn’t he going for something truthful? Why was he taking the easy route just for the cheap laughs and to move his story forward? It felt trite and lazy to me. And wholly unnecessary.
Another perfect example of this problem was the way that Grace tries to dissuade her teacher from going after her adult self; it’s not only clichéd, it’s so over the top there’s no reason why he’d believe her. And yet he does, all in the service of low-grade humour.
And the disservice of the reader.
In ‘Good as Lily’, Kim proposes an intriguing premise, but it’s unfortunately played more for laughs than anything else – featuring forced humour that one might get out of a sitcom. What could have been a mindboggling, but deeply affecting, story ended up being lightweight and cutesy.
On a similar note, Kim contrives a slapsticky food fight. Ugh. He also has Grace go to the Valentine’s day dance just because she’s jealous of her older self – and then proceeds to burn down the set of her play in a failed attempt to split the pair up. Sigh… was that really necessary?
Following this, her older self spends 30K to have the set rebuilt overnight. Ever incredulous, I wondered where she found that money: She’s not even in her own time! Well, it so turns out that she wore jewelry worth that much and was able to sell it that very day!
It’s this type of under-handed, effortless writing that bothered me, that I found prevented ‘Good as Lily’ from soaring. Otherwise, it’s a very enjoyable read, and it’s certainly something that young adults will no doubt appreciate. Of this I have no doubt.
I was actually enjoying the book quite a bit until the meeting between the various Graces: the characters, which consisted of Grace and five other friends, were quirky and fun, their dynamic was flowy, and their banter and antics put a smile on my face.
But that nighttime meeting felt contrived to me and could only be tolerated due to the eventual reveal; strangely, by being mysterious and inexplicable, it allows us to give in a little bit on the other stuff. And so I was able to carry on, if only just barely.
Perhaps too much suspension was demanded of my disbelief.
Ultimately, though, ‘Good as Lily’ is an enjoyable read. I wish that Kim had drawn it himself, however, because I find that his style of art suits his work best; plus which he knows exactly how to highlight the nuances and the comedy in his writing.
But beggars can’t be choosers: any work by Kim is welcome.