There’s lots to love in the latest gleeful offering from the pen of BUSTs genius cartoonist-in-residence Esther Pearl Watson. Purportedly based on a real teenager’s 1989 diary found in a Las Vegas truck-stop restroom, Watson’s comic strip, Unlovable, narrates the exploits of hapless high-schooler Tammy Pierce as she navigates the glories and humiliations of small-town adolescence with unbeatably clueless bravado.
This book, the second compilation of Watson’s strips from the back page of BUST, follows Tammy’s adventures throughout her sophomore year of high school, over the course of which she perpetually lusts after her dreamily handsome, gay, Morrissey-obsessed New Wave thespian neighbor; fields taunts from bullies and mean girls at school; shops; drinks smoothies with her mascara-and-fishnets-wearing best friend, Kim; and battles her hyper, obnoxious younger brother, Willis. Chunks of the handwritten text are tellingly, tantalizingly inked out, contributing to the diary effect. For those who already follow the strip in BUST, there’s more to find in the book; the sturdily bound, sparkly cover encloses lavish, whole-page panels that allow for lingering close-up absorption of Watson’s creation, which lovingly combines gross-out comic-book camp with bittersweet teenage nostalgia. Especially delightful is the addition of Tammy’s amazing cartoon concoctions, which resemble what might have happened if Lisa Frank had blown her mind on LSD. Bursting with late-80s pop-cultural references and buoyed by the exuberance of Watson’s flamboyant heroine, Unlovable, Vol. 2 is an irresistibly hilarious, tenderly drawn treat for your inner teen.