Page 45 Review by Stephen
About which, 15 years ago, I wrote:
One of our best-selling books of all time a very different coming-of-age story, about being left behind.
"Five years ago the lawn was gorgeous.
"I was in sixth grade, and we had just moved from Boston to Maui so Dad could open up his own practice. Business was so good those first few months, Dad bought us a huge home in a neighbourhood that regulated your house colour and mailbox model. It was my Dad's dream house.
"The yard, however, proved a bigger liability than either of us foresaw, and within a year, it was the blight of Makamaka heights."
If you don't put the effort in, things deteriorate - they get on top of you or they fall apart. And sometimes, no matter how much effort you put in, they do that anyway. That's just the way it goes, even with friendships.
Five years ago it was all looking up for Loren: he moved with his Dad to a Hawaiian island, was enrolled at a school where he excelled, and became best friends with Shane. But when Shane decided to try smoking dope, Loren was the last in his class to know. That was when their friendship began to be stretched, Shane's more rebellious and audacious nature taking him to places that Loren didn't want to go and to people he didn't want to know.
The core of this book, then, centres on Loren's attempts to catch up, by spending time in company he doesn't particularly like or understand, experimenting with drugs and becoming increasingly involved in petty crime on an island which is more shacks, shopping mall, and abandoned warehouses than any kind of paradise.
There are three things this book isn't: judgemental, melodramatic or romanticised.
Sure, there's a scene where Loren and Shane, on an amphetamine-fuelled nocturnal expedition, wind up by the pool of a sleepy hotel and the light as Loren dives under the water is just breathtaking. But it also serves to emphasises his separation from Shane - he dives in alone.
The art I'd describe as an accessible, classical mix of David Lapham being inked softly by Paul Pope, but there's also the odd piece of expressionism, whether it's the bees (hornets?) and the drugs, or Loren's Dad sitting alone at night with the mortgage papers as the weeds which have infested the lawn grow right up through the house, invading the open-plan kitchen and living room. For him too, it's all falling apart.
Its a quiet book, poetic at times, with Loren dreaming in class, distracted by a girl standing out in the heat on the school veranda; or the final, poignant panels, when hes left lying alone in the grass.
The publisher writes:
"Two Maui high school students, Loren and Shane, get mixed up in a petty crime, and their friendship is put to the test. One of the most critically lauded graphic novel debuts in the medium's history is now in hardcover for the first time! First-rate prep school, SUV, and a dream house in the heights - an island paradise was handed to Loren Foster when he moved to Hawaii with his father six years ago. Now, with the end of high school just around the corner, his best friend, Shane, has grown distant. Rumors abound. Loren suspects that Shane has left him behind for a new group of friends. Their friendship is put to the test when they get mixed up in a petty crime. Johnson has a naturalistic ease in exploring these relationships, which sets this drama apart. This graphic novel debut is at once an unsentimental portrait of that most awkward period between adolescence and young adulthood and that rarest of things - a mature depiction of immature lives. His lush-yet-unsentimental-depiction of Maui creates an immersive, visceral sense of place. In 2006, critics heralded R. Kikuo Johnson's Night Fisher as one of the most exciting debuts in the medium's history. Johnson won the prestigious Russ Manning Newcomer Award at the 2006 Eisner Awards, the Harvey Award for Best New Talent, and a Harvey Award nomination for Best Graphic Novel. On its 15th anniversary, Fantagraphics is proud to publish this new edition of Night Fisher in hardcover for the first time."