Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Object of Desire, by Tomoko Noguchi, is much better than it has a right to be, considering its politically incorrect take on heterosexual relationships.
Object of Desire is comprised of very explicit short stories about love and lust relationships between teenagers. Every boyfriend, not matter how kind or how cruel, is always a cheater waiting to happen, while every girl is a doormat waiting to break out of her shell. Luckily, most of the time she does eventually stand up for herself, but not before she has been done wrong by boys of varying levels of jerkiness. Even the ones with good intentions seem to invariably screw things up by being stereotypically male.
It is hard to pinpoint what makes these short stories so interesting in spite of the unappealing male leads and rather formulaic sex (every girl goes down on her male partner, almost like clockwork). My favorite part of the book was the two-chapter story about the unemotional Shizuka and her crush on class clown Kimura. Shizuka’s social interface mode is “ice cold,” and her emotional ineptitude means she only knows how to engage Kimura on a sexual level. Poor Kimura is a bit of an idealistic ass, who can’t understand that Shizuka is showing interest in the only way she knows how. The two are terrifically screwed up, both individually and as a cautious couple, but more than anything they have distinct personalities that set their fumbling “romance,” such as it is, apart from the usual high school shojo “will they, or won’t they?” game.
None of the other stories in the book were quite as good as this one, yet there was a tart sense of humor that ran throughout the book that kept my attention. Sex and love are almost commonplace occurances for the young women in these short stories. They may get hurt by men, who are usually depicted as insensitive asses, but somehow life would be a lot more boring without a little heartbreak, on the path (one hopes) to happiness.
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