Cristy Road’s “Bad Habits: A Love Story” is truly a unique novel, a punk rock hybrid combining traditional text and illustrated comic panels. It’s quite an experience, overall, with a distinctive tone established by this strange and disturbing juxtaposition of clean prose and (sometimes) outright disgusting visuals.
I’ll be honest. I’ve wanted to see a great hybrid comic/novel for a long time, and I thought Evan Kuhlman’s “Wolf Boy” was really a missed opportunity. “Bad Habits,” also, misses its opportunity to be great. It’s an idea that works, in theory, and the visuals in this book (and the sheer number of them) blow away anything we saw in “Wolf Boy,” but the prose quality simply pales in comparison. Yes, Road is great with long introspective monologues, but by the end of “Bad Habits,” I know very little about this character, about her friends, about her life. I know her voice very well, but the author relies on the images to show us everything, and so the prose is mostly abstract and intangible “telling” language, rarely building a visual.
To be a complete hybrid novel, both elements–illustrations and text–need to be all that they can be, and here, Road is accomplished with her visuals, but this simply covers up the fact that the prose is lacking.