My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Created by the ‘Sugg Squad’, and led by Joe Sugg who ‘created the storyline and characters and directed the project’; Username: Evie is a complex and often frustrating read. Yet, it’s equally important to note that it is a graphic novel with its heart in the right place. The central message is one of understanding the impact of your actions, and that being mean does have a consequence. It’s a message often lost in some frantic and overwrought panels, and quite confused writing, but it is still a dominant message throughout the comic. It’s not great, but it does try to do great things.
Evie is a fairly standard protagonist who doesn’t fit in. She lives with her dad, a terminally ill coder, who is secretly building a virtual environment for her to use after he passes. Following his death, and her discovery of his work, Evie experiences ‘e.scape’; where everything is perfect and wonderful and, as is always the way, this doesn’t last. A corrupting influence is thrown into the code and soon her idyll turns out to be something quite different.
It’s a beautifully produced book, drawn by Amrit Birdi and coloured by Joaquin Pereyra with letters by Mindy Lopkin, and the artwork is immensely accessible. Certain panels, particularly in the prologue, reminded me greatly of Fray and the visuals of Username: Evie situate themselves quite comfortably alongside such books (though I could happily step away from its obsession with perfectly crafted jawlines).
Where it struggles is the plot; there’s simply not enough time within this book for characters to develop further than their one-note beats, and where they do develop, their characteristics aren’t justified and instead read as a little bit weird. It’s as though it’s one of those creative writing exercises where you label a character with a trait pulled from a hat and forget, somehow, to make the rest work. Evie’s got this weird thing about hiding in the fridge when she’s stressed out. In. The. Fridge.
Though Matt Whyman is credited as “the person who took the story and created a gripping narrative”, I’m not sure where to apportion blame for the scrappy nature of Username : Evie and would, instead, lean towards a critique of the fact that this book doesn’t quite seem to know where or what it wants to be.
Username: Evie has its heart in the right place and tries to say the right thing; and has something immensely interesting to say about Evie’s father (the ethics of his actions are a whole novel in themselves and something the book barely considers), but it all gets a bit lost. There’s a good book underneath all of this, somewhere.