A teenager named Irene is anxious about her boyfriend's safety. She wants to run away with him, but she fears her father will come after him - he has done it before. She decides to run away with her boyfriend, but in order to trick her father - who has never actually seen her boyfriend and doesn't know what he looks like - she needs a decoy. She invites Ian, a young man who appears homeless, to come to a diner with her - that way her father's thugs will target him instead of her boyfriend. But when she starts talking to Ian, she discovers something astonishing.
It turns out that he is the same man her mother mentioned to her in a story about her aunt. Her aunt's meeting with him had influenced a major decision in her life, and they had agreed to meet again at that same place three years later. Three years have passed, and Ian has returned. But Irene's father's thugs show up, and things head downhill rapidly.
The rest of this complex and heartbreaking story is told through a series of flashbacks that detail the events leading up to this point in Ian's life. Ian's friend Jim, a reporter who has known him for years, is the narrator. He has been intrigued by Ian's life ever since they first met, and has always said that one day he would write a novel about him. This is that novel, a bleak and powerful graphic novel, illustrated with arresting black-and-white artwork.
The story is anything but simple. Ian's life has been a difficult one, but he is one of those people who focuses on the good things, the positive things, and doesn't allow his negative experiences to twist or embitter him. There are difficult themes here, including sexual abuse, incest and neglect, which make this a story that is appropriate for adults and older teens (and in fact, my library shelves this in the adult section). None of it is graphic or gratuitous - it is handled in a sensitive manner that makes it all the more heart-wrenching. It is a powerful story that will capture readers' attention and leave them with a lot to think about after they close the book. This is the first book I've read by this author, and I am very much looking forward to reading more of her work.
Not Simple by Natsume Ono (Viz Media, 2006)
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Mama Reads Manga: "What I liked about this book was its unpredictability. Although the reader knows how the story ends from the start, it drives you to read through the story to find out why it ended the way it did."
The Neon Panda: " It can’t really be classed as a manga by the drawing style, which was something that almost put me off buying it, but I swear if you give it a go, you will love it."