La Esperanca, Vol. 1–3
written by Chiqusa Kawai
Georges is the pious good one. Robert is the moody “bad” one. They both go to an all-boys Catholic school where Georges is beloved by everyone and Robert wants to rip off Georges’s mask and expose him as only being human. But then they start having feelings for each other.
La Esperanca sets itself up as if it’s going to just be a love story, only to have multiple plots and stories going on. This is a nice aspect of it and it really fleshes things out. Instead of having Georges and Robert rush at each other, the story allows readers to slowly get to know them. Now and then some of their schoolmates and friends take over a chapter, often telling stories of unrequited love or difficult relationships. Instead of being distracting, it gives more depth to the whole story.
With its rating of 13+, any romance in it is tame and sweet. The most Georges and Robert do is kiss toward the end of the first volume, after which they back off and start coming to grips with their feelings. But it’s still all set up for them to come back together. Another student at their school gets a crush on the school patron, while a nearby girl convinces herself one of Georges’s friends is her soulmate, despite whatever her deemed “soulmate” thinks about it.
All in all, it’s a pensive and quietly melancholic work. Robert is “bad” for a reason, and it has to do with something in his past that so far has been alluded to but not explained. It also has some tentative link to Georges. Georges tries to comfort Robert, which sometimes works. There’s something in Georges’s past too that he doesn’t want to talk about.
In terms of artwork, there’s a definite shojo style. That means lots of flowery images and pretty boys. Chigusa Kawai can be a little heavy on the characters’ chins sometimes, though for the most part, her art is lovely and very attractive. She does a good job on dramatic panels to really milk out the emotion of a scene. She’s one of those artists who can pack a wallop in a few well-done images and transitions.
La Esperanca is a fun series to read for various reasons. It sets a certain wistful mood for itself that will do well with readers who enjoy stories about yearning. Its artwork is very pleasing and its characters continue to grow on the reader. It’s a love story, but it doesn’t get gooey or over the top, which broadens its audience appeal. And because it’s a love story with other things going on, it doesn’t get bogged down. This could be a good addition to libraries looking for teen books.