by Coco Moodysson
This graphic novel is set in 1982 and tells the story of three young girls who start a punk band. If that sounds oddly familiar, it may be because Coco Moodysson’s husband, Lukas Moodysson, adapted it into his 2013 film We Are the Best! (It’s an excellent film, I highly recommend it.) Having seen the film first, I was initially confused by some of the differences I found in the book but I’m trying not to compare the two.
12-year-old Coco lives with her divorced mother and her 17-year-old sister Magda. Their mum’s a bit of a party animal and gives the girls a lot of freedom. Coco’s best friend since third grade is Klara. Klara’s big sister Matilda (her age is never given but it’s implied she’s very close in age) often hangs out with them, and the three of them have decided to start a punk band. None of them can play an instrument but it’s punk, so that doesn’t matter.
The story is about female friendship first and foremost, touching on a few coming-of-age moments such as trying alcohol and starting to see parents as human beings. These girls have turned to punk because they are outsiders by nature, and they’re proud of it. They’re scathing of mainstream music and they talk about politics and environmental issues. The day they first heard the Clash they all cut their hair into spikes and dyed it black. But they’re also a little socially awkward, reliant on each other because they can’t really talk to anyone else.
Music is of course hugely important to the story. I wish I knew more punk so that I could recognise some of the lyrics written liberally through the frames (I think some of it is obscure Swedish punk from the names on the records). But the girls’ punk band is just the latest in a series of hobbies these girls take up together. Because it’s music, and because of how old they are, even if the band only lasts as long as the few months covered by this book, you truly feel that it will remain important to these girls for the rest of their lives.
The art style is, perhaps appropriately for a story about punk, very rough. The girls are not attractive, except in brief moments. There’s a slightly Beavis and Butthead look to it all. I actually struggled at first to tell characters apart. This is not an object of beauty.
It is, however, touching and funny and warm and real. Although it doesn’t say as much anywhere in the book, in interviews Coco Moodysson has called this a memoir, which it certainly feels like. I also can’t seem to find any information about who translated it from the original Swedish. It may well have been Moodysson herself, or perhaps it was so collaborative that the decision was made not to name everyone involved.
Aldrig Godnatt published 2008 by Kartago Forlag.
This edition published 2015 by The Friday Project, a HarperCollins imprint.
Source: Christmas present from my Dad.