Friday, June 4, 2010

Finding (and Losing) the Girl of Your Dreams

YU+ME: dream is one of those webcomics that's been popular for sometime that I have -- for no particular reason -- never quite gotten around to. Now that the comic is approaching its final chapter, I figure it's about time I sat down and read it.

Megan Rose Gedris is probably best known for her other popular webcomic, I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space!!!, a goofy send up of sexploitation and pulp scifi (with lesbians, naturally). At the start, YU+ME looks like a particularly melodramatic romance manga (with lesbians). Fiona is a fairly typical (though especially naive) high school student sitting at the lowest rung of the social ladder. She is constantly bullied by her peers (especially by the vicious Sarah, who was once her best friend), unfairly punished by her teacher Sister Mary, and treated as subhuman by her stepmother. But her life abruptly changes when two friends enter her world: Jake, a constantly-picked on gay boy, and Lia, a girl who moves in next door. Lia opens up a whole new world to Fiona, a world of sleepovers and shared secrets, but Fiona soon realizes that her feelings for Lia are more than friendly. At the same time, a mysterious person keeps calling Fiona's house, someone her father and stepmother don't want her knowing about.

From there, the comic unfolds much the way you would expect: there are secrets and shocking discoveries, blackmail, confessed feelings, adolescent scheming, and, of course, romance. It's highly readable, though nothing to write home about. The story gets increasingly absurd (without spoiling too much, at one point, everyone in the story seems to be secretly gay and there's an almost literal fairy godmother moment), and there are weird cameos by Fiona's conscience, who speaks like a bad black stereotype.

But when the story builds to its climax, Gedris whips out the rug.

Suddenly, everything we know about Fiona and her life has changed. The art style changes. Hell, even the genre changes (we move from high school romance to epic adventure before we have time to catch our breath).

YU+ME is best enjoyed as an experiment, both in terms of its storytelling and its artistic style. Gedris plays with different media for different parts of her story, including photo, paper cutouts, sculpture, and watercolor. And she traces back through her original story to explain all of the absurdities and apparent inconsistencies we witnessed in those first few chapters. It's not perfect; there are some clunky moments, the pacing is off, and some characters who could have served the later story who disappear a tad too early. But Gedris has structured her story in a truly unusual way, and it's great fun to watch all of its puzzle pieces fall into place.

[YU+ME: dream]

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