Author: Tee Franklin
Illustrator(s): Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, Genevieve FT
Genre: Graphic Novels, LGBT
Publisher(s): Image Comics
Publish Date: February 14, 2018
Bingo Love is the story of a sweet same-sex romance that plays out over a span of 60 years. In 1963, Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray meet as teenagers at church bingo, and it’s this meeting that eventually brings them together as lovers. However, not everyone is so keen on their newfound love. The girls are ripped apart by their families, who don’t understand or approve of their relationship, and forced onto diverging paths. As a result, both Hazel and Mari end up marrying men and having families with them.
Decades after this, the two women, now in their 60’s, are brought together once again at church bingo. It doesn’t take Hazel and Mari long to realize that the love they felt for one another all those years ago is still very much alive and strong. This leads them to question life choices they’ve made and decide what they truly want for the future, taking all the courage and bravery they each have.
I want to start off this review by saying just how sweet, pure, and wholesome the romance between Hazel and Mari is. I loved seeing every moment of their relationship and how it unfolded over 50 years or so. From the very beginning, I was rooting for these two and hoping they’d end up together, because it’s so painfully obvious they adore one another. There’s a panel about a fourth into the book that shows Hazel and Mari’s first kiss, a quick peck on the cheek before Mari returns home for the day. After this, Hazel reveals that was the moment she knew she wanted to marry the other girl someday. Seriously, these two are so adorable!
Now that I’ve gushed about the relationship between these wonderful women, I’d like to talk a bit about the various characters in the book. First, we have Hazel and Mari as the leads. I liked both of them quite a bit, and genuinely found myself becoming interested in their respective struggles, feelings, and desires as the book went on. As the reader, you see how much Hazel has sacrificed solely to keep her family happy. She loved and longed for Mari, but was pressured to marry a man instead. Once that marriage began, Hazel was continuously pregnant and never had time for her hobby of fashion design, always having to watch their kids while her husband was serving in the military.
Hazel is a woman who has had to sacrifice so much of her own wants and happiness for the sake of her family. Despite suffering through that pain for years, she’s still strong, kind, considerate, and always thinks of her family. We don’t learn quite as much about Mari, which is a little disappointing. However, I really enjoyed learning what I did about her and seeing how she changed from the last time Hazel and her were together. She’s an outgoing, spirited, resilient, and caring woman, which I loved. Aside from these two, we have a cast of fascinating side characters, mostly made up of Hazel’s children and grandchildren.
I absolutely adored the art in this book! It’s very beautiful and detailed, but has a soft, wispy style I found immensely appealing. That soft, sweet, and cute vibe matches incredibly well with Hazel and Mari’s relationship as well. For a graphic novel like this, it’s important that the art is attractive and suits the corresponding story. Bingo Love definitely accomplishes this, with vibrant colors, unique character designs, and art that’s easy on the eyes. Honestly, I could gush about the art and how gorgeous it is for this entire review, but I need to control myself and get onto other points.
This book is diverse, inclusive, and progressive, featuring a same-sex relationship between two black women, one of whom is also plus-size. Hazel even mentions being queer, bisexual, and pansexual in one panel. I think that’s the first time I’ve even seen the term ‘pansexual’ used in a book, and that is just awesome. Because of this, Bingo Love gets major points from me! I really want more diverse stories like this, and I believe the world in general could use more of them, too.
There are very few things about this book I didn’t enjoy, but alas, there are still a few. My biggest complaint is that I just wish there was more, more of Hazel and Mari’s relationship, more of their years together, more of everything. For as much as I loved this story, it did feel like certain parts were incomplete, rushed, or glossed over. I wanted to see more of their relationship and more of how it developed over the years, especially when the two women were teeangers and attending school together. This book could have benefitted from fleshing out the love between Hazel and Mari more, and just showing more of their interactions in general. In addition, I believe certain important events and interactions throughout the book needed several extra pages to have a satisfying, definite conclusion and leave a more lasting impact.
Another aspect that bothered me was the little disclaimers advertising upcoming books in the series. These text boxes were fairly small, but rather than being at the bottom of a page or at the very end of the book, they were placed in individual panels filled with art. This was a bit distracting and took me out of the story a few times. It’s just odd to see this text at the bottom of a panel when you’re trying to read character dialogue and appreciate the art. I can’t help but feel these disclaimers should’ve been at the back of the book, where they wouldn’t detract from this beautiful, moving story.
Aside from a couple small nitpicks, Bingo Love is a gorgeous, powerful, inspiring, and wonderfully told story of true love. It also features a diverse, unique, and interesting cast that readers are sure to root for and fall for. So, if you’re looking for a short, sweet, adorable, heartwarming, and inclusive romance, this is the book for you!
4 / 5 Stars
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