Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Trigger Warning: Pedophilia
Laura Dean is Freddy’s everything: she’s funny, confidant, the most popular girl in school, and when they are together she makes Freddy’s heart sing. But when they’re apart, Laura Dean is just…distant and keeps hooking up with other girls. Freddy knows that she should do something about Laura Dean, who keeps breaking up with her and coming back, but Laura Dean is just so awesome. Why can’t she choose? And why can’t she figure out what’s going on with her friends?
I think this is it for me and Mariko Tamaki. There’s just something about her graphic novels (minus Supergirl, which I loved). The premise always sounds amazing, but I always feel so disconnected from her main characters, and the other characters feel unfleshed out and one dimensional. This one was no better. I get what she was trying to do and I liked how she portrayed this super duper toxic relationship and baby emotional abuser, but I just didn’t connect with anything. The tone was very similar to Spinning, which was just as disconnecting. It was okay, but I didn’t like it.
I did not like Freddy, who spent the majority of the book mooning over Laura Dean, usually in super angsty (albeit beautifully drawn) poses on her bed as she stared at the wall, and ignored her friends for the absolutely craptastic bundle of shit that was Laura Dean.
I did like Freddy’s friends, who were supportive if exasperated by Freddy’s constant yo-yoing with her on-again-off-again ex, although I was skeeved out by Doodle’s arc and its lack of real anything? Doodle was a child, and what happened was so much more profound than just being with a “married man.” It was statuary rape and omg that pissed me off so much that that aspect was not in the least bit addressed, save for some “age is just a number” thing that Doodle said her significant other told her. Blech.
I flipped through this growing more frustrated as I went on, as I just. could. not. get into Freddy’s head or see her motivations.
Part of the issue was that there was dissonance between what she wrote to her advice columnist diary-person (emails she actually sent, and actually accused a random person of being homophobic??) and what was being depicted on page. Plus the angst and the laying about. 75% of the book was Freddy staring into nothing, and the other bit was her dealing with her friends, waiting for the toxic slugfest of Laura Dean to contact and bowling with her parents.
Yes yes, I get that the book was about grappling with an emotionally abusive relationship—the turmoil, the self-hatred, the pain (trust me, I know)—but I like graphic novels with a bit more um, actively drawn panels. And connection. Also, I fully understand that this book is written for teenagers, not for grumpy 30+ year old me—and my being an old was thoroughly drummed into me with this one. I’m curious what actual teens think of this book.
The one thing I liked about the book was Vi, who was altogether Too Good for the mess that was Freddy.