Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Undertaking of Lily Chen

The Undertaking of Lily Chen
By Danica Novgorodoff
First Second, 2014. 432 pages. Graphic Novel

When hapless young Deshi accidentally kills his brother by pushing him in front of a moving Jeep, Deshi's parents send him on a mission to acquire a "corpse bride" to accompany his brother into the afterlife. Problem is, eligible dead girls are in extremely short supply. Guilt-ridden Deshi seeks the help of a matchmaker, a grave robber, and a hospital attendant before he runs into stubborn, spirited Lily, who would make a perfect bride if she weren’t so alive . . . and Deshi can't decide if he should kiss the girl, or kill her.

I wasn't quite sure what I was in for with The Undertaking of Lily Chen, but overall, the outing was a delightful one. While I was put off at times by Lily's self-centeredness, I ended up rooting for her because of her tart, quick wit and irrepressible sense of self. The artwork is sparse: backgrounds evoke the grace of ancient Chinese art, while the character designs are modern, a tactic that highlights the clash between old traditions and contemporary society. While I would recommend Gene Luen Yang's Boxers and Saints over this title, I still found the story compelling, at times funny, and occasionally a little verklempt-making. A good choice for readers whose tastes in graphic novels skew literary.


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