How to Talk to Girls at Parties
As the classic, stereotypical shy introvert, parties are generally about as appealing to me as going to the dentist. Unless I know a significant portion of the guests well, parties just mean sitting in a corner, sipping alcohol and wishing I was less awkward at making conversation with people. Often, I take the easy way out and just don’t bother to go unless someone drags me along. Which is why I was curious about the comic book adaptation of a short story about a teen boy getting dragged to a rather strange party by his best friend and all of the adventures that ensue as the boys attempt to meet (and talk) to the girls at the party. How to Talk to GIrls at Parties was originally a short story written by Neil Gaiman in the Fragile Things short story collection and was adapted and illustrated by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (a Brazilian comics duo well known for their work on stories like Daytripper and Two Brothers). The adaptation was published last year by Dark Horse Comics and, as you might expect for a short story, is a quick read.
How to Talk to Girls About Parties is set in Croyden, a suburb of London,England and follows two teenaged boys, Vic and Enn, as they find out about a party and attempt to make their way there and achieve all the things that you might expect: drinking, kissing girls and above all, not embarrassing themselves. Vic and Enn are very different sorts of guys. Vic is athletic, blond, confident and smooth with women (who tend to find his roguish smile inherently charming). Enn is tall, skinny, dark haired and awkward. He struggles to talk to girls at all and usually ends up talking to some random adult at the party instead of any girls near his age. Inevitably, Vic will end up going upstairs with a cute girl while Enn sips booze downstairs and tries to find an unoccupied corner. But when Vic hears about a fun little party (the location of which he isn’t completely sure about), he drags Enn along. The girls at the party that they find aren’t exactly….normal and while Vic immediately hits it off with a cute girl, Enn faces his usual struggle to chat with them. As the night wears on, Enn talks with various girls, each stranger than the last until the night ends on an explosive, bizarre note that will stick with both boys for many years to come.
This is one of those quintessential Neil Gaiman stories. So much so that had you completely obscured all references to his name, I’d still know it was him. Gaiman has a talent for writing female characters who are otherworldly and yet so very tempting and a tendency to favor narrators who are as reserved and awkward as he claims to have been when he was young. While I didn’t dislike Vic, I immediately empathized with Enn as a fellow introvert and socially anxious person and the way that he tries to understand the girls that he meets at the party felt so familiar to me. I think this is one of those stories that readers will either love or hate. It’s vague, a fantastical journey and yet at the same time that eternally familiar coming of age story with all the dangers involved in that particular journey. Gaiman never spells out exactly what’s going on and leaves the reader to decide how much is fantasy and how much is reality. It’s frankly a bit of a strange story but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The artwork of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon is absolutely perfect for this. I couldn’t be more impressed at how well the story was adapted to the graphic format. Ba and Moon combine somewhat realistic (if you ignore the enormous size of the women’s eyes) style of drawing with brilliant watercolor style coloring that not only draws the eye but brings this fantastical adventure in London to life. I had not previously read anything of theirs but I will certainly be looking into reading more of their work in the future.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a combination of coming of age and fantasy that I think very few authors do at the same level as Neil Gaiman. He’s not the only one but he’s certainly a master of it. As much as I adore his full length novels, Gaiman excels at vague, appealing and yet disturbing fantastical short stories and this one is no exception. It isn’t going to be for everyone, certainly not for people who dislike vague endings or not finding out exactly what’s going on. But Gaiman’s style, paired with the wonderful art of Ba and Moon bring this story to life in a way that even manages to improve on the original. Would love to see more collaborations like this in the future and keep an eye out for the film that’s rumored to be adapted from this story sometime this year!