February has got to be the worst month of the year. If the frigid temperatures don’t get you (as I write this, The Weather Channel has issued a life-threatening wind chill warning for my area), Valentine’s Day will. Those who are single are bombarded by cuddly stuffed bears and heart-shaped boxes everywhere they go, and people in relationships feel pressured to wow their partner on the big day.
Despite all that nonsense, there’s at least one good thing about February – Oni Press is releasing a 10th-anniversary edition of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her by writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Joëlle Jones.
12 Reasons Why I Love Her (Oni Press)
This hardcover chronicles the ups and downs (and boy are there a lot of downs) of Gwen and Evan’s relationship through 12 vignettes out of chronological order. When you think about it, this is really the perfect way to put a couple under the microscope. Think back to an important past relationship in your life and chances are your mind will drift from one memory to another – some significant and some miniscule; some that make you smile and others that make you want to cry.
But that’s real life, and Rich and Jones do an excellent job of making this black-and-white pair seem as real as any couple you know.
Evan is an eighth-grade English teacher who at times can be just as immature and stubborn as, well, an eighth-grader. Gwen, confident with a rebellious streak, isn’t afraid to put a religious and judgmental senior citizen in her place. The two have strong personalities, and yet, they make it work…for most of the vignettes.
There’s the pair’s first date, when Evan showed up with a bouquet of flowers destined to underwhelm, only to find Gwen had her own superior bouquet for Evan. This playful gesture on Gwen’s part falls flat as Evan sulks his way through the entire date, only to regret it and make amends later on.
In another vignette, Evan finds a vase of flowers in Gwen’s apartment with a sexual note from someone named Freddie attached. Evan is rattled and confronts Gwen over it, only for her to play dumb and change the subject.
The clear takeaway here: Flowers cause nothing but trouble.
There’s romance, there’s spontaneity, there’s jealousy, there are fights and there are those quiet moments in which the entire world seems to slow around them. As I said before, it’s a very realistic portrayal of a relationship…in a lovely hardcover format.
Rich’s sharp dialogue and fast-paced story are paired perfectly with Jones’ emotive and fluid artwork. If you enjoy the thick line work of artists like Michael Avon Oeming and Darwyn Cooke, you’ll like Jones’ art. And her Gwen is so darn cute you’ll find yourself getting angry at Evan every time he’s about to ruin the moment.
While I’m heaping praise on the creators, I feel I need to add that I couldn’t help but think of girls from my own past as I moved from one vignette to another. In my opinion, any story that makes me stop and reflect – or just feel – is doing something right.
You know what else helps you feel as you’re reading this book? The fact that 12 Reasons is somewhat interactive. Each vignette has a song assigned to it, which makes this the perfect graphic novel for Spotify users. Personally, I like to read in complete silence, but in this case, I made an exception as I turned pages to songs by Nancy Sinatra, Bryan Ferry and other artists.
12 Reasons Why I Love Her is ideal post-Valentine’s Day reading, whether you’re single or attached. If you’re alone, reading it might make you feel fortunate that you’re missing all the drama that accompanies a relationship. And if you’re one-half of a couple, reading about Gwen and Evan will remind you that your happiness could come to an end at any moment.
Wow, that’s kind of bleak note to end on. But hey, that’s real life.