EmiTown, Vol. 1EmiTown, Vol. 1 by Emi Lenox
My rating: 2/5 cats
One StarOne Star

 photo IMG_7787_zps5y7gyjof.jpg

man, this book could have been so freaking good. i’m a late-discoverer of mizz emi lenox, but i saw this cover and i was instantly book-grabby.

however, although her drawings are undeniably great, the book as a whole is a disappointment. it’s a collection of daily drawings, ostensibly autobiographical in nature, but she fails to commit to the one simple rule of autobiographical comics: divulge.

going the autobiographical route is hard. it’s squicky to put yourself out there for all to see, without vanity, insecurity, fear of who will read it and what they will think, and not everybody has the stones to share the dark juicy parts of their lives, and she clearly doesn’t, which is clear from this drawing:

 photo IMG_7837_zpsrlrnlz0e.jpg

and obliquely, from these:

 photo IMG_7839_zpsqoxafcdd.jpg

 photo IMG_7792_zpshclx7rju.jpg

she’s altogether too self-conscious for the demands of autobiography. but if you expect a reader to get through more than 400 pages of your doodles and musings, you gotta give them something a little more raw than what is in these pages. do it or don’t do it, but don’t expect a reader to tune in just for an outline of yourself as a human being.

let us see and smell your poo. poo is what connects us all.

when you take out the personal component to the diary form, what are you left with? basically a list of what she ate, how much she drank, where she went and with whom, her money woes, the daily temptation of coffee even though it makes her feel icky, and her nemesis the breakfast burrito, which takes up a disproportionate amount of page-time. there are some minor unpleasantness like a parking ticket, a spider bite, her dog pooping in the wrong place, but it’s human without being personal.

anything personal in an emotional sense is elided, hinted-at, and deflected with song lyrics,

 photo IMG_7829_zpsrulun3gw.jpg

vague self-analyses and revelations that only she understands,

 photo IMG_7836_zpsthw8sej1.jpg

even vaguer worries that read like a mad libs version of a diary

 photo IMG_7841_zpsvgnhk06q.jpg

if you’re writing a diary for an audience, you have to keep the audience interested. if you’re writing for yourself in diary form, you don’t need to be that coy about the details. pick a side and stand your ground because teasing the reader with this kind of stuff is intriguing without being interesting:

 photo IMG_7790_zpsdnw1j4wg.jpg

400 pages of insinuation is not illuminating, interesting, or coherent and it’s a drag to know a lot about what she ate:

 photo IMG_7923_zpsdxfw68b4.jpg

and what she bought:

 photo IMG_7802_zpsgw7aksrc.jpg

while glossing over anything deeper

 photo IMG_7835_zpsldqhnc6y.jpg

“things,” “factors,” “something,” “it” – everything is so damn guarded. except that breakfast burrito.

 photo IMG_7827_zpshcm5fgb5.jpg

it just feels like an ersatz stand-in for experience and growth, like some treacly motivational poster.

there are days in which she seems to feel sorrow, apprehension, where something affected her, but we get no concrete reference point for the feeling.

 photo IMG_7813_zpsttundx0q.jpg

no idea why she supposedly has no soul or what the work situation is, but hey – at least we know what she ate for breakfast!

 photo IMG_7812_zps1ts2p7pz.jpg

so vague….

 photo IMG_7797_zpswfvbap6t.jpg

she spends way too much time on the breakfast burrito plight, and wayyyy more time congratulating herself on doing housework than a 26-year-old should, especially one who occasionally goes to her parents’ house to do laundry.

there are many examples of drawings like this

 photo IMG_7803_zpsv77ei1ot.jpg

and other celebratory sharings of accomplishing basic shit

 photo IMG_7826_zps06zs4mwb.jpg

her tone in general is very young and sheltered. it lacks perspective of what would be interesting to readers, or that flair in making the mundane interesting, and relies on cutesy goo goo far too frequently:

 photo IMG_7828_zpsbh0qokzd.jpg

 photo IMG_7805_zpsysxqtvsp.jpg

 photo IMG_7800_zpsyowmyimc.jpg

she says it about herself in a different context:

I’ve never broken a bone, been seriously ill, been in a car accident, and never had anyone I was really close to die (except Weenie)<— her cat.

she doesn’t have much to write about in terms of life-experience, but she’s scared of sharing what she does have and we’re left with the literary equivalent of cotton candy – supersweet and leaving no trace of itself after you’ve read it:

 photo IMG_7831_zps5mtjpy57.jpg

 photo IMG_7825_zpsqjdjcdhd.jpg

 photo IMG_7796_zpszmsqbwnu.jpg

 photo IMG_7795_zpsh106y3k4.jpg

none of this is interesting. it’s cute, maybe, but it’s just empty blather.

 photo IMG_7809_zpsxtg9q4ea.jpg

ew, sweat is icky!

this is a girl who needs to have a bit more of life happen to her before she starts selling it in book-form. but that’s not even the real problem – the real problem is that she refuses to be interesting even when she could:

 photo IMG_7833_zpsotu6jbpf.jpg

if there were ever a missed opportunity for telling a personal anecdote, that time “I fell through a glass door in the mid nineties” ranks pretty high. but no. we never learn the details of that particular tale.

and ironically, just under that doodle, she starts talking about how her work is ’emotionally driven’:

 photo IMG_7832_zpskoqk0gpc.jpg

but she never shares any of that emotion with the reader. weak stuff. you neither come across as sad nor demonstrate a happy energy. you’re just a cute puppy drawing cute stuff squee #breakfastburrito!

it’s almost worse when she does try to demonstrate emotional depth:

 photo IMG_7794_zpsuolzuf6g.jpg

this is the kind of inward-facing emo babble i was scrawling in my journals when i was a teenager that i’d long outgrown by the time i hit 26.

and this is just a muddle of ideas/realizations that doesn’t even have a coherent thread or logic

 photo IMG_7814_zps7b3gqmyz.jpg

that’s just four different tangents signifying nothing.

more hazy nonsense:

 photo IMG_7840_zpsxat4dqko.jpg

what is she concerned about? what is the downside she just learned? we will never know, but at least we know that there is something called “blackberry brambles” that is yum yum.

she’s occasionally more transparent than she intends:

 photo IMG_7838_zpsoe06hyan.jpg

the accidental repetition of “at all” is pretty telling, but still not interesting without context or personality.

ordinarily, it would be enough for me that she draws cute things, and i understand it can be challenging to draw something new every day, but not everything is interesting enough to document, and including to-do lists

 photo IMG_7801_zpsjag1pzfr.jpg

or tallying your expenses on every page

 photo IMG_7808_zpsgt5ig5d2.jpg

is just wasted space. no one cares how much you spend on gas. tell us something real, let us in.

 photo IMG_7791_zpsdtrmk2mf.jpg

realer than that.

and after 400 pages, it doesn’t even end anywhere that feels like closure or a natural stopping point. the final page covers her inability to parallel park and the fact that she doesn’t like her neck touched and then it just ENDS.

 photo IMG_7842_zpsw2su7fge.jpg

 photo IMG_7843_zpstbnxlati.jpg

it seems like a slap in the face after reading so much. there’s nothing to connect the reader to the book at all.

the worst part is that she’s not unaware of her crutches

 photo IMG_7822_zpscxsi5tbo.jpg

it just doesn’t stop her from using them

 photo IMG_7823_zpshdtfmnfu.jpg

and while we’re wearing our nitpicky hats, there’s a lot of wonky grammar, and misspelled or wrong words. so, hhmph.

 photo IMG_7793_zps7pa883qq.jpg

it’s funny – i think i liked this book more before i actually sat down to review it, and during my second “review-pass,” all the things that had bothered me stood out more. my breaking point on the second read was this page:

 photo IMG_7811_zpsokhv0fjo.jpg

so much immaturity clustered up here: teen sarcasm, look how weird and whimsical i am, LOL lesbians!! blarg.

she’s a cute girl that draws well and she’s probably fun to drink with, but this is not nearly confessional enough a book to interest people who dig autobiographical comics – it reads like a training-wheels kind of life with no takeaway for the reader. if she’s not going to show her human warts, she should stick to illustrating and just let someone else do the writing next time.

read my reviews on goodreads

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amazon Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including but not limited to,, or,,, or


this feels gauche, but when i announced i was starting a blog, everyone assured me this is a thing that is done. i’m not on facebook, i’ve never had a cellphone or listened to a podcast; so many common experiences of modern life are foreign to me, but i’m certainly struggling financially, so if this is how the world works now, i’d be foolish to pass it up. any support will be received with equal parts gratitude and bewilderment.

To Top