"Same Difference" by Derek Kirk Kim

Derek Kirk Kim's graphic novel "Same Difference" involves two parallel stories of college friends, Simon and Nancy. The book is essentially a short story, taking place over only a couple of days.

They start out in a cluttered but comfortable pho restaurant, and it ends in the wide open spaces of the beach and the night sky. From the restaurant, Simon sees Irene Cook, a friend of his from high school who once asked him to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance, but he lied to get out of it because she is blind.  Meanwhile, it's revealed that Nancy has been toying with the emotions of a guy named Ben Leland, who is infatuated with the woman who used to live in Nancy's apartment.

In the course of the story, both Simon and Nancy are offered easy chances at redemption, but they stumble along the way, afraid to do the right thing because it will expose their lies.

The dialog is chatty, but like Kim's other works, the characters were interesting enough that I was compelled to keep reading.  Also, there's always at least one or two dialogue-free panels per page, leaving space for reaction and reflection.

I loved the introduction by Gene Yang  ("American Born Chinese") as well as the afterword by Kim himself. Kim explains some of his process in writing, and what "Same Difference" meant to him:
No matter what I do in the future, "Same Difference will always be my most significant work. Not the most complex or proficient, and hopefully not the best, but the most significant...Same Difference gave me my own voice. For the first time, the creative process became an honest, organic channeling of myself.

Although the artwork is uneven at times, and as Kim mentions in the afterword, he even had to redraw Simon's nose on nearly every page, the resulting work truly is an honest and engaging story.
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