A written review by Karl
Happyface by Stephen Emond
He opens his Christmas present in June. It’s a sketchbook that his dad gave him, and in it he chronicles a typically angsty teenage life, full of longings for The Girl (Chloe), irritation with The Brother (Everett) and worries about The Parents who are drinking and fighting a lot. Every page has a pencil drawing or a pen-and-ink sketch, sometimes a chat log or a printed note. Things aren’t easy, but they aren’t terrible.
Then, on August 23, “Today is the Day the World Changed, and that is all I will say because I don’t ever want to think of it again.”
When next we see him, he is in a new apartment, going to a new school, living with just his mom. Something terrible has happened, but he’s not talking about it. At the new school, he decides to take everything that comes to him with a smile, and thus is born Happyface. Happyface is the life of the party. He’s the one cute girls giggle about. He’s cool and awesome and doesn’t have a care in the world. Except that Happyface is just a mask, and the real guy is still behind it, and he’s not dealing with August 23.
Eventually, though, he’s going to have to.
Happyface is an extraordinary story, and it’s filled with art that astonishes not just with its quality, but its diversity. Emond draws everything from cartoon panels to realistic ink-wash portraits in a clear labor of love. Highly recommended for readers in high school and up.