Ok, I’m just going to kind of free-form this one, and we’ll see how it goes…
So, “You’ll Never Know, Book One: A Good And Decent Man” is a self-proclaimed “graphic memoir” written and illustrated by one Mrs. Carol Tyler. I’d probably more accurately describe it as two memoirs in one. Two-thirds of the book is dedicated to telling the story of her dad’s experiences in WWII, and how they shaped the kind of father he became to the her. The remaining 1/3 is a mini-memoir of the events taking place in the author’s life at the time she decided to write this book.
The art is very folksy, and by that I mean it’s very busy, and rendered with a loose hand that is not overly concerned if the-nose-is-too-big-here or the-perspective-is-goofy-there. Not necessarily a bad thing, although I personally tend to appreciate more accuracy and technicality, a la Akira. The earthy water colors and hand-lettering (in a frustrating array of fonts) also lend to the hand-made feel.
The writing is somewhat challenging, for a couple reasons. First, the author skips back and forth between different events in both the past and present, without it always being completely obvious what she’s doing. Second, there isn’t a clear narrative explaining what’s happening. Much of the narrative must be gleaned from the characters’ dialogue, which is written in a very spoken-word style. Now, that may be the way we talk, but it doesn’t make for the easiest read. (Although I’m probably guilty of writing the same way. :P) Over all, the story just feels a bit scattered and confusing.
One other gripe that I have is the awkward format of this book. It’s very stout and wide – 12″ by 10″ to be exact. This may seem nit-picky, until you spend several hours with it and notice how hard it is to hold this book. Consider: a 12″ wide book is 2′ wide when opened! Not exactly easy to read sitting next to someone on the bus. Trust me, I tried.
I have a hard time giving “You’ll Never Know” a low score, because it is cute and quaint, and frankly it’s someone’s labor of love. And while this work is probably extremely meaningful to the author and her family, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be riveting for the casual reader – even when the subject is a member of “the greatest generation“.
This is only the first book in a 3-book series, and it’s rather short. Maybe things pick up a bit in book 2. The problem is I probably won’t go through the trouble to find out. I’m not saying “You’ll Never Know” is a bad read, or even a waste of time, it just didn’t “do it” for me. I’m middle of the road on this one. 5 out of 10.