Comics Will Break Your Heart is a sweet, coming-of-age story that I think will resonate with a lot of teen readers. From the description, I had expected a star-crossed Romeo and Juliet type romance with lots of comic book geekery mixed in, but I thought the romance actually took a backseat in the plot. Mir and Weldon are indeed attracted to each other, and with the lawsuit between Mir’s grandfather and Weldon’s father over the rights to the TomorrowMen comic book series does indeed create a barrier to their relationship, it isn’t quite as prominent as the questions of what Mir and Weldon want to do with their lives beyond what their parents want or expect them to do. In romance, the happily ever after often spotlights the main characters getting together, but in this novel, I felt that the happily ever after had more to do with the decisions Mir and Weldon had to make about their respective futures.
Living in a small town is all Mir has ever known, and yet she secretly dreams of leaving for university in Toronto. She yearns for the freedom to figure out what career she wants to pursue without having to deal with people who’ve known her all her life. For Mir, her resentment over the TomorrowMen drama stems from the money she wishes could have stayed in her family, so she wouldn’t have to worry about how she’d pay for university. I love how her mom gives her a reality check for this attitude, and basically tells her that lots of other people have to get jobs and take out loans as well to pursue their own dreams.
I also like how Mir’s desire to leave impacts her friends and family. I love how realistic it felt that her dad uses humour to disguise his fear of Mir never coming back home and her best friend pushes her away to disguise her fear of their friendship dissolving once Mir leaves. There’s a scene where Mir confronts her best friend, and realizes that she never once considered if her friend also dreamed of leaving their small town. I loved that, because it shows that Mir isn’t perfect, and that while her dreams are relatable, she can also be somewhat self-centred in her pursuit of them.
I liked the insight the book gave into the comics industry, and how an event like Comic Con looks to people actually working in comics. I’d always known Comic Con as a big celebrity extravaganza, so it was interesting to learn that it started out as a small gathering of comic book fans — and recently enough that a teenager like Weldon was already old enough to go to such cons and remember the difference. I also enjoyed learning about the different roles of the storyteller, the writer and the illustrator on a comic book. These roles may seem fairly obvious, but I didn’t quite realize how much I didn’t know about the process until I saw Mir and her friend Evan collaborate on a comic book script based on Evan’s story idea, and then discuss the possibility of Mir’s mom, an artist, drawing the actual comic.
Later on, Evan’s mother shows him some original TomorrowMen comic pages, and I don’t think I quite realized until then how an original comic page was different from an artwork (like what Mir’s mom creates) and was still different from the page that’s actually printed. And again, this may all seem really obvious when written down, but it’s something I didn’t realize that I hadn’t fully understood until I saw it in the story. It’s all really fascinating, and as Faith Erin Hicks is a comic creator herself, I figure this is how the comics world really is.
There are also a lot of Canadian references (Farley Mowat, of all things!) and comic book shoutouts that may make readers smile. This book wasn’t quite as romantic or star-crossed as I’d hoped, but I think a lot of teens will relate to the decisions and dilemmas Mir and Weldon have to face.
Thank you to Raincoast Books for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.