Ryan Andrews, This Was Our Pact (2019)

This graphic novel was recommended to me by my son. I’m so glad that we reached this age when we can share books and discuss (although I’m not expecting book club level conversations just yet… reactions range from grunts to emojis to wild comparisons with obscure memes or YouTube idols…). Anyway, even if we may disagree, I’m always keen to try things he recommends, and this one didn’t disappoint.

This was our pact is the story of a handful of boys who have dared each other to follow the river at night to see for themselves if the mythical tales their parents have told them are true. In this village, people gather on Autumn equinox night to let paper lantern float away on the river. At the end of their trip downhill, they’re supposed to fly off into the sky and become stars, but the kids want to be sure. The pact is: no one turns for home, no one looks back. But soon the kids break the pact, except for two boys on their bikes: Ben, and Nathaniel, whose friendship Ben is secretly ashamed of because Nathaniel is basically a nerd and the rest of the boys don’t like him.

Ben and Nathaniel embark into an adventure that will take them much farther than they’d expected. Magic things do happen on that special night, and they will also meet unlikely characters. To say much more would certainly spoil the magic. The pace of the story is slightly uneven, but there are really moments of grace hidden inside that are enough to put me in a very forgiving mood.

His website says that Ryan Andrews lives in the Japanese countryside with his family. There’s indeed an interesting mix between American and Asian culture in his art. Some have mentioned Studio Ghibli but I don’t really see it there. I particularly enjoyed his work on dark blueish pages, it gives a dreamy feeling throughout the book.

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