As I mentioned in my review of A Boy Like Me, Jennie Wood can write gender like no one I’ve ever come across before. In the novel, A Boy Like Me, Peyton Honeycutt is a girl who truly thinks and feels like a boy. Which as a grown man I can tell you she nailed it. It was amazing to read. Now with Flutter we see Jennie stretch her talent even further with a main character who can be either boy or girl, but who is this person deep down inside? Can we, the reader, ever really know? More on that later, first let’s talk story…
Lily’s dad moves them around, a lot, as a high school student this isn’t exactly an ideal situation for her. There’s also the fact that she doesn’t seem to ever get sick. And she keeps getting stronger. Even if I had no prior knowledge of the genre Flutter fell into by page 3 you know it’s a superhero story. But it’s not simply a superhero story. This one immediately adds a layer of political intrigue involving a Governor, some agents, and an assassin of some merit. As we dig deeper into the layers we learn that Lily’s dad is a scientist which not only begins to explain them being on the run but it has a whole hell of a lot to do with why she’s so different.
But though the story of who may be hunting/protecting her is interesting it’s not what hooked me. I almost forgot the espionage thread while following along with Lily trying to fit in, make friends in a new school, and figure out just how far these powers may go. Lily goes to some pretty dark places testing herself, using sharp objects, high places, and riding too fast, all of which will be familiar to those of us who’ve gone through heavy stuff in our teens. And it’s during this that we see where Jennie is taking Lily. Not on an adventure of powers necessarily but one of identity.
Lily meets and quickly falls for Saffron and we see first hand, through Lily’s newly manifested shape-shifting ability, how easy it is to hide who we are to get what we think we want. And Jennie Wood takes us beyond Lily’s power and shows us ourselves. Lily changes herself in ways not limited to physicality. She takes up hobbies, begins lying to those around her, all for the love of someone. Someone who may not deal with the truth well when it comes out. And the truth always comes out. But this isn’t a tragedy, we aren’t cruising along waiting for it all to fall apart. Jennie balances (juxtaposes?) Lily’s romance with Saffron with her growing friendship with another character, and we see (at least I did) that Lily may have a chance at happiness if the espionage part of the plot doesn’t catch up first.
I think what Jennie achieved in volume one was masterful. She takes you through this teens struggle to fit in and ramps it up notches above what most of us have experienced. Let’s face it any of us who’ve had an inkling of same-sex attraction go through a time where they question where they belong in society, how to present themselves, and what that decision will mean. Gay? Straight? Bi-sexual? All these labels come with their own weight, their own baggage. And all can be an uncomfortable pigeon-hole. Especially for a teen.
A word about the art. Jeff McComsey was given the unenviable task of creating a character(s) we’d see in both genders and interacting with the same supporting characters. Bravo on an amazing job. I could tell Lily from her alter ego immediately whether or not the clothing or setting changed. His characterization, settings, action sequences were all spot on and worth the price of admission. I look forward to seeing more of his work.
I love where Jennie is taking Lily, and us, and truly believe that 215ink has a hit on their hands. You can get your copy at your local comic shop this December (I believe we missed the final order cut off for Flutter vol 1 but if your local shop isn’t planning on stocking it (yell at them first) then head over to amazon.