Twenty-Something Urban Romance: True Kilbourne and Zander Gunn
I picked up True Loves and True Loves 2 at SPX this year. The two books by Jason Turner and Manien Bothma (husband and wife) chronicle the falling in love and thereafter of True Kilbourne and Zander Gunn. An odd experience for me reading the books before the webcomic (True Loves 2 is available in color at Serializer.net) but having both books to read in one stretch actually was a good thing. While I liked the initial True Loves tale, I really thought True Loves 2: Trouble in Paradise added a lot more to the entire tale to date (Jason Turner's note at the end of True Loves 2 says they're already working on True Loves 3).
It's romance, no question, but one that tries to mimic the rhythms of love in everyday life. I picked up in reading several interviews with Turner that he and Bothma view the books as very "Vancouver-specific" which may be true but I thought the urban setting was pretty universal myself. True and Zander meet and fall in love, although it takes most of book one for True to get out of an existing relationship that seems to be running on enertia for her. They move in together in book two, and as they live together, try to deal with each other's decisions about jobs, life, etc. True's friend Eliza and Zander's friend Brian (nicknamed Herb) have a past together that creates a lot of interesting, funny tension in several scences throughout the books, although it never really feels like actual dramatic tension for the main characters.
Jason Turner's art has a loose, simple feel to it although it would be wrong to describe the visuals as simplistic; Turner often includes wonderful background details in his panels. He also does a great job of adding distinctive details to each of the main characters that both reinforce their personalities but also ensure that there's never any confusion over who is who.
I really liked both books; the humor and drama weren't particularly overwrought or forced and the progression of the characters' lives seemed awfully natural. There's lot of little details of life at this age in this kind of city setting that ring hard and true. And it's hard to get that rhythm right where you don't tell a more cliched "happy ending" romance or meander so much that you don't build any forward-progess into the story. The True Loves books seem to get that rhythm right without even trying too hard.