In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Anne Elliot allows her friends and family to talk her out of an imprudent marriage to the poor Frederick Wentworth, even though she loves him, and then spends her life regretting that decision. Oddly enough, the graphic novel The Cute Girl Network reminds me a bit of Persuasion. Reed and Means tackle the difficulties of modern dating and the question of how important the opinions of others are in dating choices.
Skateboarder Jane wipes out in front of Jack’s food cart and he falls for her hard. He crushes on her immediately and, little game as he has, consults with his roommates about what to do if he sees her again. They encourage him to just go for it and ask her out on a date, which he does. The resulting date is monstrously awkward, but the two still hit it off. Despite Jack making a lot of boneheaded moves, Jane likes him and they go on more dates.
Just as Jack’s starting to want to define their relationship, Jane’s friend, Harriet, discovers that it’s Jack Jane’s been dating all this time. At this point, Jane stages an intervention. Turns out that Jack dated another of Harriet’s friend and messed it up big time. When that’s not enough to make Jane dump him pronto, Harriet puts out a call to The Cute Girl Network, a network of local women who share stories about the men in town to save other women from being used and/or abused. Several women come forward, all with horror stories of their own, leaving Jane torn about whether to stay with Jack or not.
The Cute Girl Network is both a wonderful and terrible idea, much like Anne Elliot listening to her family. For some people, trusting others could possibly save them from heartbreak or a depressing future tied to someone who will pull them down like an anchor. Other times, though, as in Anne’s case, a woman might give up on real love because she was too afraid to stand up to those around her. Harriet puts a lot of pressure on Jane, but, thankfully, Jane is no Anne, and not the sort to give into peer pressure; were Jane so easily led, she wouldn’t be a badass female skateboarder.
The Cute Girl Network stresses the fact that every relationship is different. Though each story told by his exes is true, Jack’s not exactly the same person he was back then and Jane’s not the same girl. Plus, with exes lined up like this, pretty much no one would come out of such a network looking like a viable candidate. I thought the message of The Cute Girl Network was very healthy, focusing on making informed decisions about what you want for yourself and not what others think is right for you. Plus, it’s very sex-positive and shows strong, independent women.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I could have used more emotional connection, but I don't have any real negative points to offer.
The Final Verdict:
Many will likely consider The Cute Girl Network to be new adult, as all of the characters are in that post high school age range, where they’re still trying to find themselves. Most of the characters are barely making ends meet, despite living with roommates. It’s one of the least romanticized portraits of this period of life that I’ve encountered The Cute Girl Network is funny, thoughtful, and adorable, with art that works well with the story..