First graphic novel of the new year! Alex Robinson’s Tricked initially caught my eye because of its cover. It’s quite appealing to a child of the 80s (it also made me want a companion book emblazoned with a pencil on its cover; awkward cassette tape humor, FTW).
If I were to boil down this novel into one sentence, it would be that this is one of those “strangers suddenly linked by a common experience” stories. We’ve seen quite a few of these types of stories recently; if it works once, it will work hundreds more times, right? I could even argue that Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy could qualify as this type of story, since many of the residents of Pagford really didn’t know each other at all (most especially the ones who were related or married).
The question is, was Robinson’s take on this storyline successful? To qualify, he would need to create characters who are not necessarily likeable but complex enough to pique reader interest, as well as story arcs that join together in believable ways and lead to a captivating conclusion. As to the latter part of these requirements, I feel ambivalent. In some ways, I felt that the ending, while not what one might expect, was more satisfying. Conversely, the failure of meeting fully the expectations of the former requirement meant that the ending lacked the punch that it might have carried, had all the characters been interesting.
I will say, however, that two characters in particular shine: a paranoid schizophrenic who decides to stop taking his medications, and a waitress struggling to overcome body issues ingrained upon her by a string of abusive relationships. Both characters are believable in discomfiting ways. Both characters, for primarily subjective reasons, caused me to engage in a great deal of internal debate regarding their behavior, their choices, and at times their insufferable behavior. It’s a shame that the other characters couldn’t incite this level of response from me, but I applaud Robinson for taking the time to craft these characters so well.
Lest we forget that this is a graphic novel, I should acknowledge that Robinson’s illustrations are somewhat tame but clean and controlled, with the occasional inspired use of space and his monotone palette. Overall, his artwork is enjoyable while in the midst of the novel but not memorable enough to remain with me.
Final Verdict: I like Robinson both as a storyteller and an illustrator, and since my new favorite thing is to search the county library catalog and put holds on books, I’ll have to see if they have anything else of his that I can give a go.