If you missed out on the buzz around the 2019 Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical Be More Chill, then you can jump into the hype through the newly adapted graphic novel.
In 2004, the late Ned Vizzini published the young adult novel, Be More Chill, which was written in the first-person perspective of high school student Jeremy Heere. Vizzini tragically lost his battle with depression in 2013, but Jeremy’s story lives on. From Broadway adaptation to a future movie, and now a graphic novel adapted by David Levithan.
Review: Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel
Vizzini’s novel was a truly unique experience and Levithan pays it the respect it is deserved. Jeremy is an unremarkable nerd, who is left pining after the unattainable popular girl, Christine. He’s seriously “uncool” until he gets his hands on a pill-sized supercomputer that can turn him into the coolest guy in school.
The only downside to the “squip” pill is, well a lot. Sure, the voice of Keanu Reeves is in his mind feeding him the right lines to get the girl, but having a computer in his brain is really dangerous. In both the original young adult novel and the Be More Chill musical, the internal dialogue with the “squip” feels choppy and disconnected, but through the clever lens of a graphic novel, it’s both engaging and compelling.
Nick Bertozzi’s illustrations bring Be More Chill to life in such a vibrant way. While largely drawn in shades of grey, the eye-popping infusions of bright teal create a unique world around the characters. Bertozzi manages to add further depth to the experience that Jeremy is going through as he dives into a new headspace with the presence of the “squip” in his brain. The two-tone art style evokes a unique experience that is otherwise non-existent in the original novel or musical.
I will be honest, I never bought into the hype around Be More Chill (both the novel and the musical) but something about the way Vizzini and Bertozzi have crafted this graphic novel actually made me reconsider my disinterest in the source material.
There’s a commentary within the material about how artificial “coolness” comes at a steep cost. Jeremy was doing just fine by being his authentic self — he didn’t need a magic pill to make himself likeable. But that isn’t dissimilar from other awkward nerdy teen stories available in the market, but what makes Be More Chill is the off-beat idea of a supercomputer pill doing the work for the protagonist.
Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel is available at booksellers everywhere.