{Review} Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

Chopsticks is best described as a graphic novel… sort of… about forbidden teenage love and mental illness.

But that’s not a particularly descriptive description.

Part scrapbook, part narrative, Chopsticks in an innovative approach to storytelling. This contemporary YA tells the story of Glory and Frank, next door neighbors that fall in love and are rapidly split apart by both distance and Glory’s father. Glory is a piano prodigy slowly descending into a dark world, where she’s only able to play Chopsticks on the piano and obsesses over Frank’s drawings. Frank is a gifted artist who’s failing out of his prestigious prep school. Chopsticks takes the reader through the couple’s tale in photo, snippets of IMs, YouTube video links, drawings and mementos from their relationship. 

Beyond the IMs and occasional scraps of paper with notes and lists, there are no words in Chopsticks. 

I’m usually averse to book trailers, but the one that Razorbill put together for Chopsticks really helps explain not just the plot, but the way the story’s told.

If you’ve read Jay-Z’s Decoded (which I highly recommend—get the print edition, if you’re usually a digital reader, it’s so worth it), you’ll recognize designer Rodrigo Corral’s design work. Like in Decoded it’s visually rich and extremely nuanced. I’m a design nut, teach at an art college and studied art history quite a bit in college, so this type of work is extremely compelling for me.

The design is stunning, and as a result, I found myself absolutely engrossed in the Glory and Frank’s story. 

With that said, there’s nothing particularly standout-ish about the story contained within each visually-stunning page. It’s essentially boy meets girl, parent separates boy and girl and Very Bad Things happen during that separation. Ultimately, I didn’t care about what happened to Glory and Frank—I cared how it looked. I loved the book, not the story.

Nevertheless, I’m certain teens—the intended audience—will gobble up this star-crossed lovers story, and likely embrace the edgy nature of the storytelling. I know I would have at that age.

The strength in Chopsticks lies with the presentation, and that’s what I took away from the reading experience. 

Chopsticks is also available as an iPhone/iPad/iPod app, and I’m dying to check it out—in that form, “reading” it would be quite different. Not better or worse, just different. I found myself lingering over the pages, examining all the fine details of the images, and I loved that. In digital form that exploration would be different. The videos are playable in the app, the photos are zoomable and the drawings are animated. I imagine the novel would feel less like a book and more like, well, an experience.

If you’re a Tumblr addict like me, the novel’s Tumblr is also worth a follow, as it augments the book as well as teases if you’re yet to experience Chopsticks. 

Verdict: Recommended for readers; Highly Recommended for design nuts & folks interested in alternative story-telling.

{Buy the book: Amazon | Powell’s}

{Buy the App.}

{Visit the Chopsticks website.}


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