Wednesday, August 8, 2012
High Silliness: Teen Boat!
When Dave Roman and John Green's first Teen Boat mini popped up at SPX a decade ago, it created a minor sensation, one that built a few years later when it won an Ignatz award for Best Debut. The reason why it became so popular is encapsulated in its ridiculous tagline: "The Angst of Being a Teen/The Thrill of Being a Boat!" That statement doesn't make any sense, which is fine since Roman and Green aren't concerned with making their narrative coherent or logical. Instead, each chapter sends up various aspects of culture aimed at teens with the central conceit of the book: that its titular protagonist can transform into a small yacht whenever he wants. The comics parody both Archie-style high school silliness along with John Hughes movie angst, as Teen Boat (yes, this is his actual name) has a female best friend who pines away for him while he's hot after the school sexpot, exchange student Nina Pinta Santa Maria. Yep, the jokes are that direct and silly and Roman and Green are entirely unapologetic about the silliness.
The color makes this an attractive package, though I honestly thought the original minicomics were more effective than the book. The book feels a little overdone for such a slim premise, even if the book is careful not to let the colors dominate in a garish fashion. Considering the book's target audience (ages 12 and up), the use of color does make sense. Not every joke lands, and some of the book's more obvious targets are groaners, but the concept of Teen Boat is so surprisingly sturdy and pleasant that it invites a lot of good will from its readers. It's best read in short chunks given the repetitive nature of the concept, but it will likely be a treasured book for a number of children who enjoys its mild satirization of teenage life and silly adventures.