It was really only a matter of time before I picked up Jonesy. It’s got an eye-catching art style, it’s received lots of love, and if that wasn’t enough, artist Caitlin Rose Boyle is a resident of my hometown of Pittsburgh. That said, before getting the first trade, I didn’t actually know what the story was about. It was actually fun, though, to be able to go into a book basically cold and be surprised by what took place. In this case, what took place was an inclusive and diverse magical realist take on a typical high-school slice-of-life story.
Spoilers after the jump!
Jonesy (whose actual name we never learn – even her dad just calls her Jonesy) is our jaded Latina teen protagonist, who informs us from the get-go that she’s an expert at identifying things that suck. Among these are her dad’s terrible Spanglish jokes, Valentine’s Day at school, and her own recently discovered magical powers. You see, her powers can make people fall in love with other people or things (she discovered it when she made two guys she shipped in an anime actually fall in love) but they can’t make anyone crush on her. Over the course of the first trade, she interferes with her school’s Valentine’s flower sale, sends her single dad on a date by accident, and attempts to sabotage the prom. She also makes a friend in a girl she formerly resented: popular girl Susan.
Jonesy’s powers may seem really alarming at first, as we’ve written multiple times about stories that confuse “nonconsenually making people fall in love” with “something actually romantic”. However, they’re not shown as something positive in the story. Jonesy isn’t a perfect protagonist, and we see her make selfish and ill-advised decisions constantly. The story almost always immediately shows us the negative effects that come from her using her powers, whether it’s nearly leading someone to get an inadvisable tattoo to hurting business at her dad’s donut shop, Donut Worry Be Happy. And when she offers to use her powers to make new friend Susan’s crush on her classmate Nisha requited, Susan flat-out refuses, insisting on having a properly anguished crush from afar rather than letting Jonesy interfere and muddle the waters. Plus, the principal suspects something’s up after all the weird sudden lovefests that have recently swept the school, so she’s gotta keep her powers in reserve anyway. Basically, while the series so far doesn’t deal perfectly with consent, the narrative doesn’t totally cosign forced magical love in the way, say, Gravity Falls did in “The Love God” (I’m still not over that). That said, I would be curious to read the next volume to both learn more about how Jonesy came by these powers, and how she begins to understand why they’re negative—I hope she realizes that it’s not just because they usually lead to something going wrong, but more importantly because they subvert other people’s will and override their consent.
In the meantime though, Jonesy is a fascinatingly flawed character, and her adventures are a visual feast to enjoy. Plus, the series is amazingly diverse: Jonesy is Latina, with a soft, dad-joke loving father who loves baking and puns, and an abuela who is fierce and #goals beyond measure. Her new best friend Susan is a queer Black girl who has a crush on a teal-haired Middle Eastern girl, the aforementioned Nisha, a crush that turns out to be naturally requited (if them holding hands and dancing at prom is a confirmation). And her other best friend Farid is also a brown kid, leaving this series with, really, no noteworthy white characters. Even Jonesy’s celebrity crush, a pop star named Stuff, is a kind of flamboyant brown guy with a Bowie-esque aesthetic (and the Ziggy Stardust-esque mythos to match).
On top of this, it’s got a delightfully vibrant and dynamic art style. Jonesy’s big hair and expressive eyes combined with the sort of chibi-y, gremlinish facial expressions Boyle gives her are really evocative and hilarious. Combined with the vivid, neon-bright color scheme, it definitely earns the comparison in The Nerdist’s blurb on the cover as “a spiritual successor to Scott Pilgrim“. If I had one complaint, it would be that it took me until issue #4 of the collection, which was actually set at prom, to realize that this was set in high school and not middle school, as the aesthetic of the series feels a bit young. (And I bought it from the children’s section at the bookstore I went to.)
All in all, though, this was a wonderfully enjoyable read. I’ll definitely be picking up the second volume to see where Jonesy’s failures take her, and of course to catch up on what happens after Stuff crashes their prom (the trade ended on a cliffhanger!). Hopefully the story will take the foundations it built regarding magic and consent in this trade and apply it as a larger lesson moving forward.
Hear more from Lady Saika on Character Reveal, the podcast she cohosts with BrothaDom!