Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Review: David Levithan and Nick Bertozzi Bring a Familiar Story to a New Audience in ‘Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel’

In 2004, Ned Vizzini released his YA novel Be More Chill, introducing readers to Jeremy Heere. It was later adapted into a musical, and now, just over 16 years later, Be More Chill takes on the form of a graphic novel, adapted by David Levithan (Every Day) with art by Nick Bertozzi.

Be More Chill focuses on Jeremy Heere, a high schooler who spends his days pining after one of his classmates and doesn’t really have much going for him – until he learns about a pill-sized supercomputer called a squip. After taking one, Jeremy quickly becomes one of the cool kids, but soon he realizes the squip may not be as great as he once thought.

Plot-wise, the graphic novel follows the same major beats as the original novel. Naturally, scenes and other smaller plot details were removed for length, but that doesn’t compromise the story’s integrity. Throughout, Levithan and Bertozzi include references to removed sections – Levithan through character dialogue and Bertozzi through clever details and more obvious artwork (e.g. Jeremy’s Humiliation Sheet). The plot is laid out clearly so that it’s not necessary to read Vizzini’s novel before picking up the graphic novel. They skillfully present a story that readers discovering the story for the first time can understand and enjoy.

Despite removing scenes to fit the new format, Levithan and Bertozzi still provide a strong understanding of Jeremy’s personality. Where tone is established through Jeremy’s inner monologue in the novel, Bertozzi uses his art style to create the mood and tone of the graphic novel. He uses a two-color theme for the entirety of the graphic novel, creating a visual landscape that matches what readers experience through Jeremy’s thoughts in the original novel. Levithan keeps the dialogue that exemplifies the way Jeremy views himself pre- and post-squip. I, personally, also found that Jeremy was easier to relate to in the graphic novel. Due to the format, his personality was more concise, and removing his commentary helped bring him to a relatable level that’s broader than that of the original novel.

Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel is a faithful adaptation of the original novel that’s worth reading in one sitting. Readers who enjoyed the original will appreciate reliving the story in a visual way, seeing the characters come to life along with major events that happen throughout. The graphic novel also reads as less cynical. The story isn’t necessarily more lighthearted, but it’s easier to digest for readers who are searching for a slightly more optimistic version of Jeremy’s story. Levithan also removes dated language and updates a few quotations to fit better with the present day while still keeping the 2004 vibe of the story Vizzini initially created.

Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel is now available to purchase online or at your local bookstore. Find our interview with Levithan about the graphic novel here.

Julia
Julia
Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds. She joined the team in 2019 but has always enjoyed talking about her favorite fandoms. Some her faves include Christian Bale, Bob's Burgers, Hannibal, Mr. Robot, Dexter, The Office, and Love, Victor. When she isn't writing or working, you can find her reading, watching her favorite shows and movies, and building her repertoire of Dad jokes. You can find her on Twitter at @jahooliaa

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