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Julian Drees has a dream: meet the mysterious romance novelist Sydney Morgan and tell “her” of his love. But the universe seems determined to prevent any such meeting. So Isaiah, Julian’s best friend, suggest they enlist the help of Landon—class troublemaker, Godfather of High School, and Julian’s next-door-neighbor—to find Sydney Morgan. Julian isn’t too happy with the idea, especially since most of Landon’s harebrained schemes consist of wearing bad disguises, almost getting arrested, and shamelessly flirting with Julian. But Julian will do anything for love, especially for the love of the best romance writer ever born. So with Isaiah and Selby (Landon’s intern) tagging along, Landon and Julian set out to uncover the true identity of Sydney Morgan. And maybe find his true love along the way as well.
Romantic comedies are difficult to pull off in any medium, and rom-com webcomics are nothing new. But author Nicole’s This is Not Fiction has no trouble balancing the two completely different yet very intertwined genres. A unique twist is having the main character, a high schooler, falling for an older woman, and repeating it with Isaiah having a college girlfriend. Also unique is writing a male romantic lead best described as “cute” and not macho. Julian’s affinity for all things kawaii is recognized but never deemed adverse. There is no focus on whether Julian is fulfilling a specific gender role, only in his pursuit of Sydney Morgan. While generally light-hearted, there are some forays into teenage trouble, such as juvenile delinquency, child neglect, and social isolation. While tough topics, they are proficiently handled with the teenagers asking their own questions and talking to each other, rather than accepting adult interference.
Nicole drew the first nine chapters in color, going from hand-drawn to digital. The early chapters are reminiscent of pastel drawings, with heavy lines, heavy blending, and bright colors. As the digital drawings took over, the lines shrank, but the colors blended less, going with a more traditional primary color palette. The tenth chapter sees the switch to grayscale, keeping the thin lines. Following the contemporary styles, a mash-up of anime and American cartooning, the characters have exaggerated features and non-realistic proportions. Nicole uses both curves and angles in her work, using just enough realism to keep the comic relatable instead of making everything dreamy, another common trope in romantic media.
Some fun aspects of the comic are the chapter title pages. The author will create cut-outs of the characters and photograph them in a scene, such as running along a calendar or sitting on a pile of books. A distinctive style that is pure delight, it shows off the creator’s artistic and creative abilities.
This is Not Fiction is a good rom-com story for any lighthearted readers. Read about Julian and friends at ThisIsNotFiction.com.