A+E 4ever is not your typical heterosexual love story…nor your typical queer love story…nor your typical girl-with-gay-best-friend love story. In fact, every time it seems to play into one, it makes an abrupt turn into something else and by the end, the reader is not entirely sure what they have just read. Trying to figure it out, however, will just get you in trouble: Are they gay or straight? Boy or girl? Friends or lovers? A+E explores a new generation of “queer,” who go beyond simple labels in navigating their discoveries of identity and desire.
The story begins with Ash, a skinny pretty-boy who gets beat up a lot but is saved by Eu, a tall tough-talking maybe-dyke. They fall in together, as seems natural, bonding over music and art and mutual loneliness. Their friendship does not lead to salvation, however, as they hurt each other often, in a strange relationship that is by turns symbiotic and parasitic. They are selfish, they are needy, they are even cruel at times – in short, they are all the ugliness and confusion and pain that is adolescence.
As a graphic novel, the imagery is at times blurry and indistinct, dark and shadowed and fitting the mood of the story perfectly. There is no typical happy ending. There is very little happy beginning or middle, either. It’s just a big mess of people trying to figure things out, and in the end not really figuring much out. And that is a good thing, because not all books are read for a happy ending – some are read to feel less alone; because that might be the closest to a happy ending that ever happens in real life.
[Warning: This book contains a graphic depiction of sexual assault.]