Reading Resolution: “Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story” by Frederik Peeters

30. Wild Card: Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederik Peeters

List Progress: 30/30!!!

There is only so much analysis someone can make about a situation that they are still in the middle of. The events that Swiss comic memoirist Frederik Peeters portrays in his graphic novel Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story are important to him, but he feels too close for any real conclusions or thesis statement, and when he tries, the results feel like navel gazing. Add that to a desire to not hurt those he loves, and there is no real way that Peeters can say anything incisive. Blue Pills comes across more like a diary than a memoir, but for a story that needs more representation in the world, so it can be forgiven some, if not all, its missteps.

Peeters lives in Geneva, and over a long period of time in the same friend groups, he begins a relationship with Cati. They hit it off, but when they start moving towards greater intimacy, she tells him something that has changed her whole perception of romance, relationships and herself: both she and her three-year-old son are HIV+. Peeters is initially taken aback, but he feels strongly enough about Cati to pursue the relationship. This sends him into the medicalized world of HIV and the risks of “serodiscordant” relationships (where one member is HIV+ and the other is HIV-), as well as all the normal struggles of dating someone with a child. Unfortunately, Cati feels like she is handled with kid gloves, as if Peeters is afraid to move the focus away from himself for fear of making her look bad. This doesn’t end up making her look bad, but incomplete, not a fully nuanced person.

The art style is evocative, but not terribly appealing to look at, with bug eyes and overly-detailed mouths. The ink brush-stroke style carries a lot of emotion, but can leave the pages feeling dark and cluttered, and the art comes to feel repetitive. Unfortunately, the text (or at least the English translation of the text from the original French) cannot make up for the deficit, coming through as very stilted and occasionally nearing incomprehensible. It reads like something written in another language, phrasing as sketchy and rough as the art work.

HIV and AIDS are still present all over the world and are the lived realities of millions of people. It is important that the stories of HIV+ people are still told, as are those of their partners, families and friends. But that does not make Blue Pills a more nuanced piece of work, and it is unfortunate that it is one of the few of its kind. 

Would I Recommend It: Not really.

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