Review by Ian Keogh
Lottie Person is a fashion blogger who presents herself as having a life to be envied, one of glamour and status, her posts contrived to maximise this false impression. The reality is that she’s cut up about being dumped by a boyfriend three months previously, is a slave to her allergies and distressed she’s unable to live up to the image she manufactures. Not that Lottie is a figure of sympathy, being vain, shallow, and dependent on pumping up her own confidence by putting others down.
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s previous works have featured fundamentally likeable people with more minor personality flaws, or who’ve made a single mistake, so Lottie’s repellent self-obsession and need for attention is a different form of character study. Along with that he creates a different form of storytelling. Lottie’s text messaging is heavily featured to begin with, and artist Leslie Hung has blocks of text strung across her art, which suggests the urgency and immediacy to the way Lottie’s life plays out. In a world of short attention spans, status is all, yet it’s rapidly diminished by widely circulated video clips and a few negative comments.
Hung’s art is a form of updated 1950s romance comic style, with the focus on people and their expressions almost to the exclusion of everything else. Elsewhere this could indicate a lazy artist, yet Hung’s anything but. Her expressions are deftly created and with fashion being central to the story, it has to be convincing, so Hung’s designs are credibly outrageous when required, and wonderfully staid for others. It’s more difficult to convey the cut of a Paul Smith suit on a male character, but the clothes she chooses for men and the way they hang off her figures goes a long way to creating a personality.
So why Snotgirl? No, it’s nothing to do with the old joke about green hair, which is Lottie’s stylistic choice, but a nickname applied by a new BFF when she catches Lottie in the toilets, her allergies in full effect. She’s taking new meds for that, though, which seem to be working, and she may be mysterious and prone to the occasional dabble in lies, but in Cool Girl, or Caroline as she was known to her parents, Lottie sees someone actually possessing the confidence she just fakes. This is contrasted with another person who sees Lottie in exactly those terms.
Snotgirl is a smart graphic novel. O’Malley and Hung introduce a fair number of people and one way or another ensure we know them all to some extent, but anomalies are thrown into what’s otherwise a straightforward plot. Caroline’s at the centre of most, but any form of definitive genre classification is difficult to apply. By the final chapter, her insecurities partially exposed, Lottie has become slightly more likeable, and the intrigue propels into California Screaming.