The nice things first: Bob Harvey’s Me and You Too Tetralogy: Catalyst is a very pretty book. Every single page is printed in color. Every word of text is printed in color, often in different colors. The book jacket is glossy. This is a book that could double as an art print without much more than a cheap frame.
Unfortunately, the same visual glory that makes Me and You Too such a lush book renders it almost useless as a novel. The typographic approach, dubbed by the proud folks at Synergy Books as “Kaleidoscript”, is very nice to look at… and nigh-impossible to read. Words change size and color and font seemingly at random, breaking up the flow of the text and the reader’s concentration and throwing emphasis onto the strangest phrases in the text. Such word awareness sometimes works for brief passages like a greeting card or poem; in a novel, where the flow of the story should matter more than the individual words, the effect is distracting at best. Worse, the display type often chosen for the text is sometimes almost impossible to read. The changing colors and fonts manage to give the book the overall user friendliness of a teenager’s first personal web page, missing only flashing animation and some forced music to make the effect complete. Even a young and eager reader will be discouraged by the clashing visual information; readers with less keen eyes or shorter attention spans may not make it past the first four pages.
It’s a shame, because the story - of a group of strangers trying to build a larger community after a building fire leads them to question their current living situation - is tempting. And Bob Harvey, though still showing the rough edges of a beginning author, writes with a passion for his subject that sometimes manages to shine through all the dazzle. It could well be an enjoyable book if it were possible to read more than five pages without getting a migraine. Synergy Books claims the “Kaleidoscript” was necessary because Harvey’s work demanded more than traditional printing could provide. That may well be; if words alone were always enough, no one would make graphic novels. But in the rush to illuminate Harvey’s manuscript, they seem to have forgotten that in a novel, graphic or not, a writer’s words should be allowed to outshine the ink they’re printed with.