The New York Four (2008) by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly is the third MINX title to be released this year featuring another story that is geared toward the young adult crowd, particularly young teen-age girls. The stories thus far have always featured a somewhat strong female character who is faced with social, cultural or familial challenges. In “The New York Four, the story follows Riley Wilder, a young, shy, socially withdrawn teen starting her first semester of college at NYU.
The story follows a quartet of friends – Riley Wilder, Merissa Vasquez, Ren Severin and Lona Lo as they start their first semester at college. Riley, who has never ventured out of her parents Brooklyn Brownstone, is a reclusive teen who makes perfect grades. Most of her social life is virtual; she spends much of her time on her smartphone, texting back and forth with her pen pals. Her older sister, Angie, is estranged from the family and Riley doesn’t know why. Her parents, who she calls “neurotic” are strict people who seem to value a good education over a social life. Meanwhile, Riley decides to reconnect with her older sister after lurking on her “My Space” page for a year.
The two sisters catch up and hang out. Angie encourages Riley to connect to people and make friends but it’s not an easy thing for her to do. Riley spots an opportunity, however, when she overhears three of her classmates lament over their lack of jobs and needing a place to stay. She introduces her new “friends” to a research group that pays well. As if that isn’t enough, she also offers to help them locate an apartment the four of them can sublet together. However, a problem arises in the form of a new pen pal, “sneakerfreak” who text messages back and forth with Riley over a hundred times a day. When he asks her for a face to face meet, the mystery guy she’s been falling for isn’t all so mysterious after all and promises to crush her future plans of freedom.
I’m sure a lot of teens can probably relate to Riley and her crippling shyness. Even I could relate and it’s been years since I’ve been this young and gullible. Er, moving on. The author attached a couple of your typical college problems to his characters and readers are supposed to sit back and watch how they “work it out.” Needless to say that I was disappointed not only in the characters but also in how they handled their problems. Everything was neatly tied up in a nice big bow for them. And the ending left little to be desired. I actually groaned inwardly at the denouement. I’m sure the author wasn’t aiming for that reaction but that’s all I could come up with when faced with that silly cliffhanger [groan].
Another criticism would be that the graphic novel had nothing really going for it. There was very little substance here. No kernel of truth to share or enlighten us except to give insider blurbs on the cool and hip places to visit in New York. What did I learn here? Let’s see. That it’s sad that one would want to only make virtual friends and not want to make real friends? Or that having overprotective parents will make you a recluse? I don’t know what kind of message the author was going for here but it certainly wasn’t an original one.
On the whole, this story and how it was structured was weird and superficial. The story is nicely illustrated as always by Ryan Kelly. I am very familiar with this duo because I so enjoy their serial graphic novel – Local, which has only one recurring character who travels to small towns across America. Anyway, I had high expectations for The New York Four but unfortunately, this is not this author’s best work. Riley does come out of her shell a bit and the new mystery man in her life wasn’t difficult to figure out. Overall, The New Your Four was a disappointing read that had very little going for it besides name recognition, a C. This graphic novel is set to release July 22, 2008 and retails for $9.99 (USA).