Itís mighty early for such predictions, but Blue Pills just may be one of the best books of 2008. It is a touching, realistic, reflective graphic novel that proves how powerful and deep the medium can be. In this autobiographical account, Peeters reveals the vulnerability and fragility of life that is counterbalanced by human will and emotion.
In the small city of Geneva, Peeters finds himself continually encountering the lovely and spirited Cati. Over the course of several years, he repeatedly runs into her through friends and random encounters. Always friendly and intrigued by her, he finally lands a chance to get to know her better at a party. As is to be expected, sparks ignite immediately, and Peeters is quite ecstatic with his new paramour. But then she drops a bomb on him, one that can be rather perplexing and downright scary to many: Cati is HIV-positive, and so is her young child. But rather than succumbing to fear and ignorance, Peeters doesnít let this knowledge keep him from continuing to fall for the endearing Cati.
What follows is Peeterís account as an insider and outsider in the world of HIV-positive and its effects on adults and youth. His observations about frustrations, problems, concerns, and surprises (both good and bad) prove insightful and sincere. And while this doesnít seem like an homage to Cati and her child, it canít help but to be seen in that light. Though by no means depicted as perfect, Peeters makes it clear that Cati is indeed perfect for him. Thatís where the other powerful element of this book comes in: his contemplations about the nature of relationships and how both he and Cati must work to keep theirs afloat, indeed living up to the subtitle, ďa positive love story.Ē Yet another story strand has Peeters befriending and considering the destiny of Catiís child and proves as intriguing and touching as these other pieces.
If the narrative has one misstep, it lies in Peetersí dream or mental deviation in which he converses with a wooly mammoth about his hopes and fears. Given the narrative reality of the rest of the story, this comes across as a bit escapist and random.
Peetersí simple sketches also manage to evoke many different responses throughout the story. None in this story (including himself) are drawn beautifully but rather have an appreciative awkwardness to them that makes them compelling to look at, for within their body positions and facial expressions lie a lot more depth. The black and white coloring adds a solemnity to the text that subdues all other trivialities, allowing the story to focus on and be dominated by the raw energy emanating from the characters.
Provocative in thought and even in some of its imagery, Blue Pills proves to be a compelling story that readers with an open mind will find not only engaging but more informative on the topic of the sexual relationships for HIV-positive people. That is not to say it is exploitative; it provides a genuine look at the challenges and possibilities for this population and most importantly reminds readers of how very human they are.