From its cover, story, characters, and songs, everything about ‘My Riot’ screams the ’90s, and I love it. Written by Rick Spears and illustrated by Emmett Helen, this graphic novel kept me engaged until it was over in what felt like a blink. While it may not be the most memorable book, it was fun while it lasted, and sometimes that’s all that matters.
Plot overview – 17-year-old Valerie Simmons is a ballerina who goes to an underground punk-rock show for the first time and immediately falls in love. So, she starts off a three-member girl band and realizes ballet isn’t worth all the effort.
The creators of ‘My Riot’ draw inspiration from many feminist girl bands, and the teen characters in the graphic novel are no less than rock stars themselves. The story begins on a slightly dark and grim note, as Valerie’s ballerina instructor is a strict and evil woman who expects her dancers to be unnaturally thin, even going as far as making veiled suggestions to underage girls that they should smoke to keep their hunger in check. The protagonist goes through a phase of self-loathing before discovering music and a rebellious new friend who helps her through her struggles.
The artwork is simple, expressive, and slightly grainy, a deliberate decision by the artist to give the story a retro touch. While the graphic novel isn’t black-and-white, the panels are mostly mono-chromatic and the pages are either in dull pink, purple or blue tones. Perhaps a more vibrant palette could’ve elevated the reading experience a lot more.
As for the plot and pace, Valerie’s transformation from a ballerina to a musician of sorts unfolds at a roller-coaster speed. Everything happens too fast and too conveniently, but it was still quite entertaining to read.
It’s a 4 on 5 from me.
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