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Review: ‘Bloom’

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Bloom
Written by Kevin Panetta, artwork by Savanna Ganucheau
First Second, $24.99 (hardcover), $17.99 (paperback)
Ages 14-18

This quiet romance/coming-of-age story uses a leisurely pace to tell a familiar tale, made distinctive by the bakery setting and activity of bread making.

Ari works in the family bakery located in a coastal town. He wants to move to a bigger city with his band of friends, but his father needs his help to keep the struggling business going. Then Hector comes to town to clean out his grandmother’s house and winds up working at the bakery.

Many readers will relate to Ari’s loose vision and aimlessness. He has a goal, but it’s more of a dream than a possibility. As pointed out by other characters, he doesn’t work to make it happen, using the family business and other’s expectations of him as an excuse to avoid making scary steps on his own. He wants to have something meaningful, something his own, but he doesn’t yet know what that might be. He’s full of yearning but not direction.

When it’s pointed out to him that having family, friends, and a job isn’t so bad a life, Ari understands that, but it’s still not what he wants, even though he doesn’t always know what he wants. Hector’s perspective balances out Ari, helping him grow up and understand other points of view.

This is a book to devote a good amount of time to, as incidents develop slowly. The authors seem more interested in showing a realistic wander through life events than following one succinct storyline through tight editing.

The story often pauses for double-page montages, capturing moments in time wordlessly with overlapping slivers of observation. Particularly when it comes to the baking, this helps capture the feel of the process, the time spent assembling and creating, or the emotional effect of a moment. The character work is lovely and expressive, building up the cast members beyond the explicit text.

A late, overly dramatic event is the most artificial element. It feels forced to create a decision point, and that story manipulation isn’t in keeping with the slow development, as with dough rising, that permeates the rest. Given the similarities in setting, season, and mood, this might be a good followup to This One Summer.

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Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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