Summary: When Finney falls in love with a girl who also happens to be a ghost, he decides to stop at nothing to win her heart, even if that means his own death. This book is a playful reflection on the tribulations of adolescence set in a place where the inhabitants are scarier than the horrors of school, dating, and puberty.
My Dead Girlfriend, vol. 1, by Eric Wight 8.0
‘My Dead Girlfriend’ is the debut graphic novel by Eric Wight, comic book illustrator and author of the popular ‘Frankie Pickle’ series. It tells the story of Finney Bleak, a teenager who doesn’t fit into the cliques (The Aberzombies, The Deadbeats, The Foreign Exchange, The Glindas, The Invertebrates, and The Lab Monkeys) at his school.
He’s a little glum due to a complicated family history: All his family members die unusual deaths – despite their other achievements, the Bleaks are reputed for that and only that. So he’s just waiting for his turn. He’s also mourning the loss of Jenny Wraith, a girl he met at the fair, and fell in love with, but who never showed up for their first date.
If it all sounds grim, it’s not: ‘My Dead Girlfriend’ is tongue-in-cheek, all in good fun, much like the best of Tim Burton’s oeuvre (think ‘Edward Scissorhands‘, for instance). The humour is also a big plus: it’s quite ironic and it pokes fun at our societal structures and clichés all the while investing the book with values, such as acceptance, courage, …etc.
Wight captures the angst and isolation of the outcast quite well; Finney finds himself in conflict with members of the Deadbeats (whose looks are clearly inspired by the classic Universal monsters), so he has to learn how to survive in school – and after school. Anyone who’s been bullied or has been witness to bullying will find this familiar.
But what really captured my attention was its truly touching love story, which perfectly portrays the elation of that first crush; what develops between Finney and Jenny is so pristine, so pure, that it warms the heart. It really captures the moment’s all-encompassing feeling of potential – which in turn renders his sense of loss so heartfelt.
The art, however, was just okay. I read rave reviews of Wight’s work (including an introduction by Allan Heinberg, who bought his art) and I don’t really get it. It’s nice, but it didn’t inspire any form of awe in me; it tells the story well, but to me it looks made with a marker (probably isn’t), and geared towards younger audiences (or at least the young-at-heart).
‘My Dead Girlfriend’ is cynical, yet hopeful, poking fun at life’s misery and making the most of life’s delights. It strikes a sweet balance that makes me eager for more. I wish there were other volumes, but, as it stands, this is the only one. I tried to contact the author via his website, to find out if he will ever continue the story, which debuted back in 2007.
Sadly, his site isn’t working right, dammit…