Username: Evie by Joe Sugg

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Username: Evie by Joe Sugg

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: I'd never have countenanced recommending a book from such a modern source as being this good, but the fact remains this is deserving of praise as a book for the young graphic fan.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781473619135

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Meet Evie. She's surprisingly unwelcome and alienated at school – for a trendy and attractive girl, nobody at all seems to have any time for her, apart from the geeky card-collecting boy with the milk-bottle glasses on the bus. Perhaps it has something to do with her father's thatched house – after all, she must be a witch to live there. It's not that she would wish to live there, with nobody else around, and the memory of her deceased mother. But luckily someone is choosing a place for her – her father is able to put all his work into a cyber-world for her, the E-Scape, which is close to the perfect world. All that remains is to programme the humans to be her friends, and make the connection Evie has with them and them with her in return to be of mutual, confirming, happy benefit. But someone else has entered the E-Scape, and their influence seems all that much more powerful than Evie's tentative happiness…

Yes, you too can join me in scoffing a little at the whole idea of Youtube vlogger superstars writing books. Heck, you can scoff a little at the whole idea of Youtube vlogger superstars full stop. But here's the thing. For a young audience, this will be a damnably good read, even if they don't know Mr Sugg's username. It starts strongly with a city under siege by zombie-types, flames bursting from office blocks wherever the heroine looks. It reverts to the stereotypical but tenderly done scenes of her bullying and isolation, before bringing us to the E-Scape – and even if the whole idea of the place, where time runs differently to the real world and we never are told a single word about whether the threat she might be up against could ever become physical and real, we accept it and get caught up in the drama of the whole scenario.

It's an obvious and apposite one for such a cyber-star. The bullying influence on E-Scape, that causes so much damage as to create an army of malcontents, wordlessly running round indulging in random violence because they've not been programmed to know better, is clearly a metaphor for trolling online. The baddy is one who speaks before thinking – taking the buzz of an initial kick and never seeing the consequences of a life and attitude worn so negatively.

Apart from a side-character saying something risible like 'oh, so that is what love looks like', things are generally handled perfectly well. Yes there are some horrid bits where people's thought bubbles should by rights be the voice-over narrative, and vice versa, and yes the artwork is a bit off at times, but on the whole the book is both a lot more substantial than I expected, and a lot better than it perhaps deserves to be. The fact that a Matt Whyman is one of the many creative people on board, with his back catalogue, surely helps. But it's Joe Sugg whose name is selling this – and boy, is it selling. And in the light of the simple, energetic and ever-readable qualities of this fable, all I can say is 'well done, Joe.' I wouldn't wish to linger on what I found at fault with the awkward inking (OK, one thing – what is that turban thing flapping around on page nine, then?!) or the sometimes clunky script – because by seeing this in the eyes of a younger me I can only give this very high praise indeed.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Another remotely-situated orphan can be had with Meteor Men by Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell, which also finds a new world for some. A younger audience might appreciate Stampy's Lovely Book by Joseph Garrett although we did have some reservations.

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