Our actions affect those around us, though we may not realize this at the time, and quite often this leads us to have our fair share of regrets about things we did in the past. Back when Simon was in high school, he made up a lie about going out of town so that he wouldn’t have to attend a dance with his friend Irene. Though Irene was beautiful and a close friend, she was blind and Simon was worried about what this fact would do for his social reputation. Almost a decade later, Simon is enjoying lunch with his friends when he looks out the window and sees Irene sitting at a bus stop, bringing forth a flood of suppressed guilt.
Meanwhile, Simon’s friend Nancy has been keeping busy by posing as another woman and sending fake love letters to a man who is obsessed with the previous occupant in her apartment. When Nancy learns that the man she has been corresponding with lives in Simon’s hometown, she convinces Simon to drive her there so she can spy on the object of her mischief and learn more about him. However, the trip turns out to be a humbling yet awakening experience as both Simon and Nancy come face-to-face with the reality of their actions, causing them to reflect deeply upon their own lives.
It’s hard not to be immediately impressed with Same Difference’s artwork. It is stunning and manages to effortlessly straddle the line between realism and caricature, all the while packing in a remarkable amount of detail from panel-to-panel without ever becoming distractingly busy. Working strictly with black ink on white paper, Derek Kirk Kim successfully breathes life into the books world by coloring it with tangible believability instead of a variety of hues.
However, the visuals are not what make Same Difference so special. Rather, what stands out is the delicate, restrained manner in which the story unfolds and the openness by which it allows readers to make connections to the protagonists. Simon and Nancy are directionless, potty-mouthed, post-collegiate twenty-somethings, having little more to do with their time than ponder their past mistakes and engage in monkey business such as sending phony love notes to an unknown person. But for all their foibles, it is easy for readers to sympathize with these characters because they are clearly not bad people at all, but instead they are simply looking to find bearing and meaning in a confusing, overwhelming world— a situation we all go through during our lifetimes. Watching Simon and Nancy embrace their blossoming maturity as they move further into the realm of adulthood provides a touching and meaningful payoff.
Originally published in 2003, Same Difference received a number of accolades, most notably the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards—all of which are well deserved. This new edition adds a humorous introduction by Gene Yang, some intriguing behind-the-scenes material by Derek Kirk Kim, and a hefty hardback format featuring a striking cover design. The story won’t hold much significance to children and younger teens—and given the plethora of profanity, they should probably keep away—but it’s really not meant for them, anyway. Instead, Same Difference is a message for older teens and adults trying to find direction and sense in their lives, serving as a gentle reminder that even if we all feel remorseful and disconnected on occasion, we share a stronger bond with the world around us than we may realize.
by Derek Kirk Kim
First Second, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 14