From Publishers Weekly
Johnson's first graphic novel has a force and elliptical grace that suggests he's been drawing comics and writing fiction for much longer than he really has. It's set on Maui, whose history and economics inform the story's progress, and Johnson draws its landscapes and buildings—as well as the flora that symbolize the island's past—with a sure grasp of what it feels like to be there. The story has more to do with psychological intricacies than with plot: Loren Foster, a private school student and son of a dentist, is in his final year of high school, and his best friend Shane Hokama is drifting away from him and into a seamy crowd. Trying to become a man and ditch his too-innocent image without being destroyed by the transformation, Loren follows Shane into Maui's smalltime underworld, smoking crystal meth and getting dangerously mixed up in petty crime. The bold, high-contrast artwork includes some smart experimental touches: we see most of the story from Loren's point of view: whatever's in the panel (including him) is what he's thinking about. Johnson's storytelling is clear and masterful, and his characters' body language says as much about them as their words. An exciting debut from a talent to watch. (Nov.)
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*Starred Review* Johnson's debut is a coming-of-age story that avoids the pitfalls common to the type. Loren Foster, a transplant from the mainland, is a straight-A student at an elite prep school on Maui. Estranged from his former best friend, Shane, he reconnects by falling in with a circle of druggie friends. Loren's studies slide as he and his new crowd commit petty crimes, leading to an inevitable downfall. Johnson convincingly and nonjudgmentally portrays the internal struggle of mildly disaffected teens at a turning point in their lives. Nature is an integral element in the story, from the weeds that threaten to take over the home Loren shares with his father to the foliage that envelops him at the end. Johnson draws with a confident bravado that is particularly impressive in a young cartoonist, and his narrative skills are equally assured. His depiction of Hawaii, while creating a visceral sense of place, avoids the standard "tropical paradise" cliches. Much of the story unfolds at night, allowing Johnson to show off his skill at using solid black areas to shape powerful compositions. Seldom has an artist's initial graphic novel been this accomplished and rewarding. Gordon FlaggCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved