Eva attends a very exclusive, expensive private boarding school. She is picked on for being lower status and attending on scholarship. Eva keeps a digital journal and her first entry tells you everything you need to know. “I don’t belong here. I know it. Everybody knows it. Except my mother, of course. She’s the only one who doesn’t understand. ‘So you can have the opportunities I never did, Eva’ and she keeps working her fingers to the bone to pay for my very pricey personal hell.” This entry concludes with her wishing she was dead. She then applies red marker to her wrists and neck while lying in bed in her underwear as if she were, in fact, dead.

The next day Eva is on cleaning duty after school and she discovers Donatien, a popular boy, drinking the blood of a classmate, Amber, who lies dead in his arms. Mack, the only character who has been kind to Eva, believes his sister Amber was killed by Donatien, but there is no proof. The rest of this book is about teens having sex, drinking blood and generally being angst-ridden.

The most uncomfortable part of this book was not the blood, the sex, the “macabre” imagery, or the truly confusing location details. No, it’s the writing in this book that is truly uncomfortable and difficult to read. There is no subtlety at all. It feels like the author doesn’t trust the reader so everything is spelled out, which makes it feel juvenile. There are only five characters in this story and they speak almost entirely in clichés. The book is full of examples of teen angst tropes and every line Eva has comes with the weight of the world on her shoulders. I know it’s a book about teenagers, but it’s hard not to feel like it was written by a teenager. It has the limited world view of youth and the raging passion of chaotic hormones run amok.

I’ve read praise for Llovet’s art that I understand, but there were some big issues for me in this book. I couldn’t tell where the location was supposed to be and/or if we were supposed to be able to place it. This book seemingly took inspiration from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with some Victorian styling thrown in for a truly odd effect. There is a same-ness to all the faces that makes them less interesting. There is an obsession with sex and blood here that feels like it’s begging you to take it seriously while being so broad it’s almost parody.

Although the book is set in a high school and the content theoretically has teen appeal, due to the blood, sex/nudity, violence, and suicidal imagery, up to and including a content warning and the inclusion of the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, this should only be read by adults. That said, this would probably disappoint anyone who was hoping for any kind of story. I cannot recommend this book for any collection as there are simply better books out there for just about every facet of this story. If you would like a book with art that feels similarly influenced, but is better realized, try Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening. If you want something in the horror vein, try Something is Killing the Children. If you want an unusual school setting, try Deadly Class, Volume 1: Reagan Youth.

Heartbeat
By Maria Llovet
BOOM! Studios, 2020
ISBN: 9781684156085

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Adam

    | he/him Technology Specialist

    Reviewer

    Adam is a Technology Specialist at the Way Public Library in Perrysburg, Ohio. His duties include helping patrons understand how to use various library related apps, where he is sure to point out which have access to graphic novels and comics. He curates and has presented on the library's "Beyond Books" collection and takes secret joy in ordering video games as an actual job function. His favorite duty is ordering graphic novels for the adult section of the library, which he feels better equipped for than ordering books on say, transportation. A lifelong comic reader, he still remembers buying X-Force #1 and his mom throwing away X-Force #1. You can find him yearly at C2E2's librarians meet-up complaining to no one in particular about Rob Liefeld's inability to draw feet.

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