13th Boy 1-2 by SangEun Lee: B

13thboy_1There’s really no way to describe 13th Boy other than “odd,” but it’s odd in the best possible way.

It’s the story of Hee-So Eun, a fifteen-year-old girl who is already on her twelfth boyfriend, Won-Jun Kang, to whom she confessed on a national TV program. Alas, their relationship only lasts a month before Won-Jun unexpectedly breaks up with her. Hee-So refuses to give up, however, and concocts various schemes to get closer to her “destined love,” like stealing his wallet and contriving to get into the girl scouts so that she can go on a camping trip with him. Her efforts are unwillingly aided by Whie-Young, a boy with feelings for Hee-So, and Beatrice, a (male) talking cactus.

On its surface, 13th Boy reminds me a bit of Sarasah. With her unquenchable persistence in the face of rejection, Hee-So is similar to Ji-Hae, and they both seem to share a taste for cool and aloof boys with nothing to recommend them but their looks. Quickly, though, 13th Boy proves itself the better series by actually giving Won-Jun a semi-pleasant personality, though Hee-So is still clearly more in love with the idea of him than any qualities he may possess. There are also many unexpectedly strange elements like, oh, say, a talking cactus, a weird connection between Won-Jun and some former kindergarten classmates, and the magical abilities that Whie-Young possesses and keeps using to help out Hee-So even though he knows that using his power shortens his life span.

13thboy_2Often when a series tries to juggle this many weird elements it ends up an awful mess, but that doesn’t happen with 13th Boy. There’s enough of a forward momentum with the main story that the subplots are free to develop more slowly, and I never got the sense that the creator didn’t know where she was going with all of this. By the end of the second volume, for example, several things are already more clear and the possible directions the story could take are numerous.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this unpredictable tale goes, but I do have one fairly major problem with the series: I don’t like Hee-So. She does some dumb stuff in pursuit of “love,” which is kind of irritating, but what’s worse is her frequent reliance on “I’m a weak girl” as an excuse for why she can’t be expected to do certain things. With Whie-Young there to bail her out at every turn, she never has to take responsibility for her ill-considered actions at all and clearly expects to be able to coast along on cuteness all while simultaneously criticizing another girl who takes the same ploy—if it is a ploy in her case—to extreme levels. I can only hope that she matures as the series continues, else all the loquacious cacti in the world won’t be able to save it.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

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