13th Boy, Vol. 2
By SangEun Lee
Published by Yen Press
Review of volume one here.
Still determined that Won-Jun is her destined true love, Hee-Soo campaigns to join the Girl Scouts so that she can attend the joint scouts camping trip along with him. The scouts are reluctant to accept Hee-Soo into their ranks since she is applying well after the deadline (and they suspect her motives are far from pure) but when Hee-Soo miraculously passes their impossible test for membership they are unable to refuse. Meanwhile, more is revealed about Whie-Young’s supernatural powers and the long-standing romantic triangle between him, Won-Jun, and Sae-Bom which Hee-Soo has complicated further. Most importantly, however, talking cactus Beatrice has a mysterious secret which provides this volume’s greatest shock!
What was charming but incoherent in the first volume of this unusual supernatural romance has become simply charming in its second volume now that the story has apparently hit its stride. Without losing any of the elements that made the first volume so perfectly whimsical (strange teenagers, hints of magic, talking plant life), the relationships between the characters are finally taking shape, though much mystery still remains. What is the true nature of Whie-Young’s magic? Why doesn’t Hee-Soo remember her childhood friendship with him? What on earth is the deal with Beatrice? These questions linger on, but there is enough solid ground to stand on to make this story’s foundation comfortably secure.
Though Hee-Soo’s unwavering pursuit of Won-Jun could easily become too strident to bear (the heroine of Sarasah comes to mind) her sincerity and determination to remain smiling as he repeatedly (but not unkindly) rejects her make her too sympathetic to dislike. It is quite painful to watch the four-way tangle of unrequited love between Hee-Soo, Won-Jun, Sae-Bom, and Whie-Young, but there is enough real affection between them all–even Hee-Soo who is the outsider of the group–to render each of them likable in his/her own way. It is especially refreshing to see them take steps to save each other from pain and public humiliation, including those who are rivals. There is real kindness in each of these characters, no matter how hard they work to hide it.
With its nuanced relationships, idiosyncratic characters, supernatural themes, quirky art, and sense of true whimsy, 13th Boy is a real winner with me. Let’s hope it continues to build on this new strength!
Review copy provided by the publisher.