I think reading this made my heart grow three sizes.
Always Never is one of the loveliest graphic novels, and most unique love stories, I’ve ever experienced. Spanish cartoonist Jordi Lafebre both wrote and illustrated this himself, and there’s a level of cohesion to the prose and the art that feels incredibly rare to me because of that. I was captured from the very beginning by both the art and the unique format.
This is the story of a romance delayed. The book opens with chapter 20, where we see the 37-year delayed date of an older couple who life has kept apart for all that time. Readers are immediately left with questions. Why did they wait so long? What kept them apart? What drew them to one another in the first place? From here, we journey further and further back in their story, finally ending in chapter 1, when the two meet for the very first time.
This format for a love story was absolutely brilliant. Starting with the end and working back toward the beginning was a fascinating, refreshing look at what was already a very unconventional romance, mostly kept alive through late-night office phone calls and letters with no return addresses. It was lovely, and somehow still retained an air of mystery even after the final pages of chapter 1. I was both delighted by it and profoundly moved.
A couple of things about this graphic novel blew my mind. First of all, this is a translation. While I was made aware of this in my research, it never felt like one to me, which speaks highly of both the original prose and the translation itself. Secondly, Lafebre is a phenomenal artist. The expressiveness in the eyes of his characters blew me away, and the reverse aging of the cast was incredible to behold. The skill and raw talent on display here were truly humbling.
I don’t read a ton of graphic novels, and romance hasn’t been my genre of choice this year, but I’m thankful for whatever bookish serendipity brought Always Never into my reading life. It was exquisite, and an absolute delight to read. I’ve already added a physical copy to my wishlist, as this is a story I hope to revisit time and again as I grow older. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for my own love story, and the ease of it, and I want to have access to that lovely reminder on my shelf.