Review by Frank Plowright
12 Reasons Why I Love Her is a quirky experiment that really paid off, so credit to Oni Press for taking a chance on two then unknown creators producing a story that in 2006 fitted no convenient boxes. It still doesn’t really, and is all the better for that.
Over a dozen short stories we see Evan and Gwen progressing through their relationship, which hardly runs smoothly. Jamie S. Rich provides the authenticity of those stupid arguments every couple has, gay or straight, the ones that erupt over nothing, and inflate into something, be it misunderstandings or the wrong conclusion leapt to in haste. Underlying them all is the fear of losing someone we really love, and the twisting mindworm of insecurity.
The emotional subtlety of what, make no mistake, is a charming romantic story, needs an intuitive artist, and if proof was needed of what a highly regarded artist Joëlle Jones would become it’s there in her first full graphic novel. The storytelling is a little shaky in places, but she poses people naturally, and brings the most important emotional moments to vivid life. A fair emotional spectrum is required, particularly when Gwen addresses the readers more directly. There’s even the feeling that she’s holding herself back in places, giving us the expected instead of following her instincts.
Despite this being a nearly chronological progression, what appear to be unresolved issues are eventually addressed. However adherence to a pre-planned narrative structure causes one weakness, as in reality one moment especially would have been addressed sooner than it is.
Ultimately your response to 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is going to depend on how appealing you find Evan and/or Gwen. They don’t have to be realistic, but Rich embeds traits designed to annoy some people in both of them. Get over it! No-one is perfect, even if they appear heaven-sent in the first instance, and love is acceptance. This is charming and engaging until the end, although anyone who believes the Hollywood template for romance ought to be universally applied may take issue with that.
Rich obviously loves his 1990s British pop music, pulling the title from My Life Story’s now forgotten perky orchestral gem (“Eleven – she leaves the pie and always eats her greens”), and includes a single tune soundtracking each chapter. A 10th anniversary hardcover edition was released in 2016, and anything that keeps the jangling wonder of the Trashcan Sinatras alive a little longer is very welcome irrespective of the content.