With a lonely opening word bubble, “Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler!”, readers are drawn into Scott Pilgrim’s quirky world. In Volume 1, Scott juggles his relationship with 17-year-old Knives Chau and his crush on mysterious new girl Ramona Flowers with her baggage of evil ex-boyfriends. In terms of plot, little happens in this first volume, but the draw here are the honest conversations and many loveable secondary characters who round out Scott’s “precious little life”. Both readers and Scott’s friends doubt Scott’s decision to continue dating Knives while courting Ramona. Scott’s own cluelessness complicates his life, and readers won’t be able to resist as he digs himself deeper into trouble.
The book handles complicated young adult issues in a way that is sincere and respectful to its readers. When Ramona tells Scott that she doesn’t want to have sex with him right now, he responds, “That’s okay. That’s cool.” He later elaborates, “I don’t know. I’m nervous. I feel weird. It’s been like a really, really long time. But this is – I think I needed this. Whatever it is.” Although this is a fun and lighthearted romance, the writer manages to tuck in some honesty about the nuances of young love.
With his scrappy rock band Sex Bob-omb, his lack of understanding the opposite sex and his wide-eyed innocence, few graphic novels match the wit and charm of Scott Pilgrim’s Previous Little Life. The drawings throughout are adorable: they combine the more effective elements of manga with the hipness of street art. Older readers will feel at home in Scott’s world and will take note of the outlandish fight scenes which are reminiscent of the cartoons and videogames of their youth. Another graphic highlight occurs when Ramona has a flashback from 7th grade, the illustrations switch to an appealing crayon-on-construction-paper style that conveys the scene perfectly.
Although this book’s main appeal will be for older teens and young adults who can sympathize with being too poor to live alone, being between jobs and sleeping for 16 hours a day, this book will appeal to younger teens as well. This is a wonderful “gateway” graphic novel that will help introduce the medium to readers who are unfamiliar with comics. It is a quick read and very accessible (and it’s better than the movie!). The cliffhanger ending will hook them and, without realizing it, readers will have devoured the entire 6-volume story.
Scott Pilgrim’s Previous Little Life 1
by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Oni Press, 2004
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)