Checking Up On Spell Checkers
The story of Spell Checkers cynically answers the question, what would teen girls do if they had magical powers? Apparently, they would cheat on every homework assignment, smoke like chimneys and become tyrant lords over their whole school. They would be cruel to their parents, teachers and each-other. It’s like every nerd’s worst nightmare back in High School, where the three most popular girls really do have the power to enslave the masses.
The story revolves around three High School aged witches, Jesse, Kimmie, and Cynthia who suddenly find themselves under attack by magical graffiti slander. The book opens on the present, with Joelle Jones inking the past and Nicolas Hitori De providing the art for the current timeline.
Some of the elements Jamie S. Rich weaves into these characters might be spot-on for teen girls in High School. But for me to be personally engaged with a character, I’m going to need a lot more than the snotty witches from this first story to compel me to pick up another book. I’m going to need one or two of them to be relatable.
Actually, that was what I hoped this plot-line was aiming for. With a common enemy they must unite against, the plot seemed rife to help expose the girls weaknesses and give them a little humility to soften their rough edges. Or even, perhaps – give them some kind of character arch. Not so much.
There was arch to the story, and a quick paced plot, so the point isn’t to skewer the writing here. The snarky exchanges between the girls are amusing most of the time, but then sometimes devolve into vengeful bitchiness for no apparent reason.
If your characters don’t like one-another, why should the audience or reader like them? Yes, they make with the funny…but I can get funny and identifiable or interesting somewhere else. Pure funny, especially if it’s mean, isn’t enough to keep me gripping and turning the pages.
It’s also not to say I can’t stand a character with loose morals and a bad attitude. But they must possess at least some interesting quality which makes watching them equivalent to enjoying a guilty pleasure. They’re bad for you, but they taste so good. No one character (or the trio combined) stand out as nasty treat I want to indulge in.
In fact, I found myself rooting for their common enemy by the end.
It’s fun to write snarky, and every author should get the opportunity to purge it from their system, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fun to read, especially in such high dosage. Snark works best when taken in moderation and coupled with a sign that mean girls actually do care about something besides their own scheming ends. We’ll call that – The Cordelia Chase factor. We could stomach Cordelia’s bitch-tasticalness because inevitably she would do the right thing. Or mostly the right thing.
One final bone of contention for me was the art. You all know I looove Joelle Jones, so it was certainly a bummer to realize her work would only appear in less than half the sequences. The other artist, a french dude named Nicolas Hitori De who looks remarkably liked Adrien Brody, inked the other 3/4’s in an Americanized Manga style that I’ve never affectionately latched onto. For the most part I avoid reading any books with this style of art in them – the pixelated dots as shading, and the inexplicable missing body parts (especially eyes) is exceptionally distracting for me.
It also doesn’t help that the three ladies possess similar body types, and while Jones is able to create three separate and distinct beings – Hitori De’s ladies all share the exact same face, so only hair style and clothes distinguish between them.
Spell Checkers is a miss on a couple different levels, which is frustrating…because this is a book I’ve been anticipating for several months. But for those who appreciate dark humor mingled with magic and the cattiness of High School (ala The Craft, Heathers and Mean Girls), the book awaits you.
This leaves me squarely looking forward to another Jones and Rich collaboration that isn’t Spell Checkers. But with at least two more books left in the series…I’m worried it might be awhile before they combine their talents on a non-Spell-Checkers project. But it’s definitely worth the wait.
– Video Interview of Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones