Everybody Knows Aya

June 17th, 2009 by | Tags: , , ,

I think what I enjoy the most about Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie’s Aya is that it isn’t really about anything. I don’t mean to say that it’s aimless, or doesn’t have a plot, or anything like that. What it isn’t, is an afterschool special or sociopolitical statement. It isn’t a book about how “Africans are normal people, too!” It’s just a story about young girls living in Côte d’Ivoire.

In a way, it succeeds as a statement for those same reasons. The usual mental image the word “Africa” conjures is one of mud huts, bone noses, and warlords running roughshod over the countryside. Aya presents a scenario that is made of the same kind of drama that small town life anywhere is buried in. There are teens going out to the designated make-out spot, a father sucking up to a local high powered businessman, a girl who wants to sidestep all that drama, and surprise pregnancies. Who hasn’t had a friend hook up with somebody you liked? Aya is, at its heart, about small town relationships.

Aya is the main character of the book, though a few characters end up being the ones who drive the story. Aya observes what’s going on, dancing in and out of the drama, while trying to make her own way in the world. One of the first things she does is ditch a party to finish her homework. Later, she explains to her father that she wants to be a doctor so that she can help people. She isn’t a nerd. It isn’t about how a Nerd With a Heart of Gold walks through the valley of the shadow of death, showing the Jocks and Frat Boys and Mean Girls what’s what. No, she’s just a normal girl. She’s studious, and aware of who she wants to be, but that’s not anything exceptional. She isn’t a flower.

Aya’s surrounded by a decent sized cast. She’s got her family, including a little sister, her friends, who in turn have their own family, and then the various boys that are interested in one girl or another or both. Oubrerie’s art does a good job of differentiating between them. Their faces are distinct, obviously, but there are even little differences in posture and body language.

The scene where one girl explains to her boyfriend that she’s pregnant is a great one. Oubrerie isn’t afraid to do a bit of cartooning, and it’s employed to great effect here. I like that he employs some classic techniques to get his point across. Proportions warp, eyes bug out, shadows cover a face, stars and sweat drops abound… I like it. I could totally see this as a cartoon. Something like Home Movies after it dropped Squigglevision.

I really dug Aya, and I’m probably going to order the next volume, Aya of Yop City, this week. I’m a little irritated at myself for never having tried it before now, but Drawn & Quarterly did good bringing it over.

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5 comments to “Everybody Knows Aya”

  1. Sounds very interesting. I might check it out if I see it at a comic store. Did you ever read the comic book on Obama by the way?

  2. @draco: Which one?

  3. […] [Review] Aya Link: David Brothers […]

  4. Hey David, glad to see you enjoyed it!

  5. @Justin: Thanks for recommending it, Justin!