Author/Artist: Jen Lee Quick
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: September 2005
Synopsis: “Meet 15-year-old Tory Blake, a self-proclaimed genius who is somewhat antisocial and more than a bit cynical about the world Life is just tedious for Tory… until the day an attractive but secretive boy his own age moves in across the street. Tory becomes obsessed by his mysterious new neighbour and begins documenting his every move. But this pursuits of friendship – and possibly more – leads Tory to the one thing he wasn’t expecting to discover.”
Off*Beat isn’t so much a mystery in its own right as it is the story of a boy looking for one. Tory Blake is the story’s lead. He’s an intellectual, anti-social teenager who doesn’t give the world a whole lot of credit, plus it seems to bore the heck out of him. One day a boy named Colin moves in across the street in the dead of night and suddenly Tory’s found a target for his obsessive-compulsive nature.
The story walks a fine line between mystery and boys’ love. Are readers supposed to be hooked for the resolution of Tory’s ‘investigations’, or rooting for more evolution of his obsession? It’s not really clear, which makes this book a little difficult to recommend to people based on genre. Labelled by Tokyopop as Drama/Romance, I’m inclined to move my thoughts to the latter.
A bulk of the book consists of readers following Tory on his stalker-ish actions (which he does fully realize with much personal scrutiny). There’s a lot of his inner dialogue, thoughts and methods to keep up with, not to mention his random bouts of fantasy-styled daydreams. It’s interesting seeing how far Tory goes and his paths of thought, which are both impressive and a tad creepy in the way only someone whose really, really bored would be. His determination and what little he learned, and more so what he couldn’t learn, was enough to make me curious about Colin as well.
I’m a fan of Jen Lee Quick’s work so I was happy to finally have something that she had drawn and written. Her art in Off*Beat has the attributes I like her style for: nice proportions, well-drawn casual clothing and facially expressive characters. Her style is manga-influenced but lacks the more stereotypical attributes attributed to that, finding a fairly comfortable niche between manga and indie-styled. It’s a unique look and one easily recognizable. The pages are drawn left to right.
By the end, the first volume of Off*Beat did draw me in enough to cause eager waiting for volume two. The curious side of me really wants to know more about Colin and it’s convenient having someone as stubborn and focused as Tory to figure it out for me. On the other side of things, my boys’ love fan side couldn’t help but be successfully teased by the implications. Overall, it’s an interesting book with several directions the story could go; directions, for now, that I plan to follow to the end.
Review written May 17, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo
Book purchased from independant comic book store, Odyssey 2000