Book review: The Undertaking of Lily Chen, by Danica Novgorodoff

Novgorodoff, Danica. The Undertaking of Lily Chen. First Second, 2014. 430p. $29.99. 978-1-59643-56-5. Ages 11-14. P8Q9

After Deshi accidentally kills his older brother, Wei, their mother, forces Deshi to find a corpse bride for Wei so that he will have company in the afterlife. In his guilt-ridden search for a recently-deceased single woman, Deshi finds the perfect one—but falls in love with her. He struggles with the thought of killing her to make up for the horrible accident. The graphic novel is packed with strong characters: a matchmaker, a grave robber, a hospital attendant, the girl’s father, and Lily Chen herself. In her defiance, Lily has a great zest for living that Deshi cannot bring himself to quench. Figures are almost cartoons against minimal, inky backgrounds depicting traditional Chinese landscapes while Deshi’s pain is rendered in watery washes. Oddly comic, the tale presents the tension between past and contemporary beliefs. “Undertaking” in the title describes both Deshi’s mission and the ghost marriage that his family duty demands. Long, convoluted, and adventurous, Undertaking is also a great venture of reading.

June 2014 review by Nel Ward.

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