Best friends Grace and Lola talk about everything together—and lately, they’re talking a lot about love. Relationships and boys are a mystery to both girls, but they are curious,. They decide to launch a project together to find out more: the Love Report.
In a shared notebook, they record everything they learn as they interview people who might have a useful angle on love: the school gossip, a couple who just started dating, two female friends who are feuding over a boy, the pretty girl who all the boys like, and the tough girl with a bad reputation. Lola even gets up the nerve to talk to the boy she likes! But heartache is coming for both girls. Will their friendship get them through? And will they ever understand love?
This story features close friendships, school drama, and family issues. Grace is a little jaded and skeptical, with a string of short relationships behind her, while Lola is less experienced and more hopeful about romance. The rest of the cast—mostly their classmates, with occasional appearances by their family members—brings other backgrounds and personalities to the mix. The story is set mostly at school and at various character’s homes, with a few forays into other parts of the unnamed city where it takes place.
In all the talk about love and relationships, the story acknowledges, but does not thus far actually show, the existence of LGBTQ+ people. For instance, Grace suggests that the boy who keeps dodging Lola’s attention might already have a girlfriend, or “maybe a boyfriend.” Characters take it in stride when the possibility of same-sex dating is mentioned, but we don’t actually see any of it happen.
This book collects the first two volumes of The Love Report, which were originally published in French as Coeur Collège (BeKa is a two-person writing team based in France). The illustrator is Italian. There are a few traces of the original French, including characters whose names have changed: for example, whenever Lola’s name appears in the illustrations, and at least once in a speech bubble, she is called Linon. There are also a couple of places with possible missing words or other small editing slips, but nothing big enough to cause confusion.
The illustrations are rich with detail. The delicate line art and varied but low-intensity color palette give a sense of cozy softness that is underscored by a lot of the visuals: fluffy hair, puffy or slouchy jackets and sweaters, rumpled beds, even poofy autumn trees. The style is realistic, but with clear manga influences. The characters are lively and expressive.
While the book has zero nudity and doesn’t show anything more sexual than a few kisses, there is discussion of one girl having a reputation for being “easy.” The words “bimbo,” “slut,” and “bitch” appear once or twice each, though the latter two are used by unpleasant characters and clearly not meant to be viewed as acceptable. There are some tough family situations, including parents who fight and a verbally abusive stepmother. There is also one scene of mild danger when a man chases and threatens our protagonists before being scared away.
With sympathetic characters exploring a topic of near-universal interest, plus a cozy and colorful art style, this book will appeal to fans of realistic fiction and school stories. Hand it to older readers of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Shannon Hale’s graphic novels, especially if they are open to an art style with more of a manga feel.
The Love Report Vol. 1
Art by Maya
Hippo Park (an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers), 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 10 and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: French, Italian
Character Representation: Assumed Black