Graphic Novel Review: Good As Lily

A graphic novel that uses an unusual conceit to discuss coming-of-age and self-growth.

Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim, illustrated by Jesse Hamm.
MG/YA fiction (mostly realistic fiction, but with a speculative fiction aspect), 150 pages.
Minx, DC Comics, New York, 2007.
Lexile:  Not leveled.
AR Level:  3.0 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: While the text is a third grade level, this is written for older children.

On Grace Kwon’s 18th birthday, things get a little weird.  Friends whisk her away, guitar strings break, and a strange accident with an unwanted pinata leads her to leave her favorite present behind in the park.  And when she meets versions of herself at ages 6, 27, and 70, it gets a whole lot weirder.

Good As Lily Cover resized

This is a special review.  See, this is a re-read, but it’s also a book I first read in 2007.  At the time I was devouring graphic novels as fast as I could get them.  However, unlike most of those quick reads, the plot of this one stuck with me for the past decade.  I couldn’t remember the title for a long time, just that it was a Minx book.   After seeing ReGifters on this great list, I suddenly recalled that Lily was in the title, and was able to find the info.  Lily is not the main character’s name, which made it more difficult for me to remember.

It was on my ever-so-long wish list and even made it to my “cart” online, but then I found a practically-new copy at my local used bookstore!  I had a pretty awesome book haul that trip, but this was the first book I sat down to read.

And it outshone my decade-old memory.

Grace is Korean-American.  Her family and some of her friends speak Korean at times, and it is denoted with brackets in the text.  She’s bilingual and switches back and forth between the two with ease.

One problem with this book is that the clothes have gotten a little bit dated.  The poop emoji is currently on trend, but bare midriffs and spaghetti straps are no longer the coolest teen fashion.

There is some kissing, death is referenced, and a few characters smoke quite a bit.  Some scenes show characters in swimsuits or underwear, and guys are sometimes shirtless.  Grace has a crush on a teacher, and some other characters like each other.  Although this is geared at teens, I think a preteen who could handle the above as well as the vocabulary would be fine to read this one.

One disappointment has to do with the formatting.  Minx books give extensive previews of other books in their line, so you may be thinking there’s another chapter or two left, but it’s all previews at the end.

Good As Lily p45
Multiple Graces on page 45.

Finally, some readers may be disappointed in the lack of explanation.  We learn a little about who Grace’s other selves are as we ride their emotional journey, but not much about what happened to bring this about or the mechanics of this time travel/time stream change.  The reader can surmise but never know for sure.  That’s why I hate to label this as science fiction, because really it’s about Grace.  About growing up, healing yourself, and choosing a path.

Good As Lilly rewards rereading.  Despite the science fictional (or possibly magical)  aspect, it should appeal to readers who like contemporaries and coming-of-age stories.  There are aspects of it you couldn’t possibly notice on the first reading.  Recommended.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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