Koko Be Good (Jen Wang)

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Koko Be Good found me in the bookstore today. I’d never heard of it, but I saw it sitting there on the shelf and was intrigued by the odd cover image. The illustration style is interesting, alternating between realistic and caricature-like. At first, I didn’t know if I liked that sort of alternation, but then it grew on me. The characters also grew on me, especially Koko. I liked Jon from the start and that didn’t change as I read the comic, but Koko…Koko was weird and prickly and annoying at first, but then I figured her out and started to really like her.

The novel is essentially about what it means to be “good” and whether or not we should sacrifice our personal desires for the sake of “doing good” (whatever that may mean). [SPOILER ALERT!! Stop reading if you don’t want the ending ruined!] While the novel depicts the characters ultimately choosing their own happiness over conventional ideas of charity and goodness, Wang manages to walk that fine line between endorsing selfishness and encouraging people to be true to themselves. The result? I think the novel ultimately sends the message that it’s important to take care of oneself before you can try to get out there and “do good” for others. That if you don’t tend to your own basic needs first (shelter, safety, etc.), you won’t have any way to give to others.

I thought Koko Be Good was an interesting and somewhat philosophical read. It was surprising and entertaining and cute, too. Definitely worth the short afternoon it took to read it!

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