Why I Chose this Book
I had finished reading Watchmen by Alan Moore and I think that I was looking for videos on YouTube for ideas on how to review graphic novels (don’t expect anything different in this post) when I came across one video. In it, nerdburgerj recommended the book Unlikely by Jeffrey Brown among others. It seemed intriguing. I searched for it online and bought it. I spent less than $3 on it, so I wouldn’t have lost much if the book was bad.
Unlikely is a graphic novel about the author, Jeffrey Brown’s, first relationship. At 24 years old, Jeffrey Brown was a shoe painter (yeah apparently that’s a thing), living with roommates, smoked pot occasionally and somewhat of a loser average joe. Brown had yet to have a girlfriend or become intimate with anyone. The back cover of the book says “or How I Lost My Virginity,” as in the subtitle of the book, so I guess that’s supposed to be a key point about this book. Online the official subtitle is “A True Love Story,” but I don’t see that anywhere in or on the book, only “or How I Lost My Virginity.”
Anyway, his sex life does seem to play an important role in how the relationship develops, although, the entire story is more about relationships in general. Brown seemed to be just getting by in life. He did have budding dreams of becoming an artist, but for the most part, he wasn’t anyone special at all in the book. Just a young man, working a low wage job, making it in life.
The book begins with Brown meeting a friend’s friend, Allysin, who would soon be his girlfriend. Their budding relationship seems to be going fine. Throughout the novel, Brown depicts those subtle moments that occur between couples. Moments, such as an admiring glance or general quirky moment. The two seem to admire each other, but warning signs that Allysin may have a complicated past that could bleed into the relationship begin to emerge. Allysin once admits that “I didn’t’ have sex for money, but I did things that I will never tell anyone” and in another instance that she used to do drugs x, y, z, but she had since stopped.
Slowly, those subtle moments transform from sweet ones into signs of trouble to come. You see Allysin beginning to gradually check out of the relationship. I don’t know if there was one climatic event that turned the story. The relationship just begins to sour I suppose as real relationships often do. Or at least, viewing the relationship from Brown’s perspective, that is how it seems. In some relationships, there is a big argument or some incident that starts the road to its demise. In others, the relationship just fizzles out. The latter seems to be the case in this story. As a commercial product, it’s the opposite of what we expect from our stories, a clear defining moment, but as an autobiographical or semiautobiographical work, it’s more authentic.
Although there was no obvious climactic event, the girlfriend does complain about the sex. This might have been the closest thing to a turning point in the novel, though, there wasn’t one dramatic night depicted. More specifically, it was Brown’s sexual inexperience that seemed to cause Allysin’s dissatisfaction and slow withdrawal from the relationship. It’s not the type of problem you would expect from a male first timer though; she would orgasm, but he wouldn’t. There was something about this that Allysin couldn’t reconcile with.
It’s unfortunate that Brown’s sexual inexperience was a contributing factor to the untangling of the relationship. Being that that was his first foray into a relationship and physical intimacy, I wonder how that affected him in his subsequent relationships. He does have another book or two about later relationships, which I wouldn’t mind reading. They aren’t quite as easy to get. By as easy, I mean from my library. You can get them online just fine. In fact, as I continued writing this review seven months after initially reading Unlikely, I ordered Clumsy, Brown’s debut novel which is about a long distance relationship that took place after Unlikely.
Like most actual first relationships, the story doesn’t end happily ever after. I did feel like the girlfriend “did him dirty.” Brown was noticeably devastated when things didn’t work out. I suppose it was good for Brown to finally have a romantic relationship, but the target of his affection just didn’t seem to be the best first. So is life.
I wonder what was it that attracted these two together? The feeling I got was that his girlfriend seemed to be a little out of Brown’s league. That was before we got to know her better. I think she did comment that he was nice to her. He seemed like a nice guy and she didn’t usually deal with those types of guys. So, he had that going for him.
Brown’s artistic style is simple, scratchy, and kind of looks like it was done by a precocious middle schooler. It was as if someone with modest drawing abilities said “hey, I want to make a comic book” and this is what resulted. Similarly, the dialogue bubbles are also handwritten and scratchy, but still readable. I believe that was a stylistic choice. I hope. Despite the impression all of that might have given, the experience was still fine. I see in some of his more recent works, such as his Darth Vader family series or whatever, the artwork is much cleaner.
This book conveyed an interesting look at relationships. It revels in the mundane things that happen in every relationship that we take for granted. It’s seemingly honest and raw from the story to the artwork. A page flip or two wouldn’t hurt someone considering picking it up.