Booklist Gives Bad Friends a Starred Review

“Bad Friends” / Booklist / Terry Hong / December 14, 2018

Only the back, front, and inside covers show color here, in muted pastels. Within are black-and-white panels so disturbing and brutal that any further vibrancy might prove overwhelming. And yet, despite the horrifying, can’t-turn-away abuse, Korean comics creator Ancco manages to infuse her extraordinary portrait-of-an-artist-as-a-young-teen narrative with redemption, contentment, and—yes—even happiness. A decade has passed since high school, and Pearl is now a successful cartoonist; she’s established a healthy relationship with her parents, and has reliable friends and colleagues. Looking back on her adolescence during the late 1990s, when Korea suffered serious financial crises, Pearl unblinkingly confesses the bad behavior—smoking, drinking, truancy, running away—she shared with her bad friends, especially her best friend, Jeong-ae. Punishment was unavoidable as Pearl recounts enduring horrific abuse by her own father, her teachers, even peers. Pearl somehow survives but loses Jeong-ae, creating an aching void Pearl cannot seem to escape. ​​Making her English-language debut by way of award-winning Canadian translator Hong, Ancco uncompromisingly exposes societal dysfunction and punitive exploitation, especially of young women, while acknowledging and memorializing the saving power (for some) of devoted friendship. Already an iconic voice for Korean youth, Ancco should quickly find widespread resonance with eager English-speaking audiences as well.

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