Readers of The Lost Art

Good As Lily

March 4th, 2009

 Good As Lily

Authors: Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm

Reviewer: Jean

******Spoilers for the plot and ending******

I was glad of the chance to read “Good as Lily”. I’d sampled the Minx imprint with “The Plain Janes”, and found it lightweight but respectable entertainment; I’d enjoyed Derek Kirk Kim’s “Same Difference” – the “other stories” less so, they felt like filler, material included to bulk out something that wasn’t quite ready to be a full length publication. All the more reason to find out how he’d developed.

Ah, well, you can’t win them all.

It begins well enough. It’s Grace’s 18th birthday, her gang of friends have organised a party in the park, she has been accepted by a seriously prestige university, and there is ice-cream – or, failing ice-cream, the pink pig-shaped piñata the ice-cream vendor insists she buy. This cute visual motif loses something in the black and white interior artwork,
but it plays its part in the story, mysteriously bringing Grace into contact with three other Graces, herself at different ages.

But this isn’t a story about alternate time lines, different possibilities: these are all versions of the same Grace, setting out from the child who had to cope with the sudden death of her older sister (the Lily of the title, to whom she feels herself constantly compared), passing through “our” Grace, just eighteen and with adult life beginning
to open before her, and on to two older selves, the 29 year old and the old woman, with troubles of their own.

It’s “A Christmas Carol”, as Grace finds out who she may become, if she isn’t careful. On the surface, Grace’s other selves show her nothing of her future life, and instead throw themselves into her present. Her 29 year old self becomes her rival in her crush on her high-school drama teacher, her old self smokes too much and feels sorry for herself, and
her younger self causes a food fight with the girl who has been bullying her, it seems, for years. All this generates the sort of incident that might be invoked as “with hilarious results”, but it also reveals the deep unhappiness of the three temporally displaced Graces – and it is they, rather than the present Grace, who must mend their lives by changing.

So far, so saccharine: the child Grace seeks reassurance that her parents care for her as they did for her dead sister, and once she has that reassurance, she vanishes (as does Lily, pretty much). The older Graces are more problematic, because their unhappiness comes from Grace’s unfulfilled crush on Mr Levon, which blinds her to the attractions of her best friend Jeremy. This is why at 29 she is so lonely she tries to build that crush into a genuine romance, and this is why as an old woman she engineers the opportunity to change the course of her younger self.

Do I believe that Grace’s life is ruined by failing to notice Jeremy’s feelings for her? That’s what the book says: that once this crucial moment is passed, he never tries again, that she never meets anyone else, that going to Stanford doesn’t enable her to build a career that gives her any satisfaction… I’m not exactly the target audience for this book, but that doesn’t sound to me like much of a message to give teenaged girls, either.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd (28 Sep 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1845765710

(First published 10/12/2007.)

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