Hello everybody. Today’s post is a spoiler free review of Ari North’s Graphic Novel Always Human. This post is also part of a book tour organized by Hear Our Voices Book Tours. You’ll find more information about the tour at the end of this post, as well as links to all of the other blogs that are also participating in it.
In the near-future, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications — from different colored hair and eyes, to highly-technological implants that change the way they function in the world. But some people aren’t so lucky, plagued with a highly sensitive immune system that rejects these modifications. Maintaining a “natural” appearance, these social outcasts must rely on cosmetics hair dye in an attempt to fit in.
Sunati is attracted to Austen the first time she sees her and is drawn to what she assumes is Austen’s bravery and confidence to live life unmodded. When Sunati learns the truth, she’s still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. Gradually, their relationship unfolds as they deal with friends, family, and the emotional conflicts that come with every romance. Together, they will learn and grow in a story that reminds us no matter how technology evolves, we will remain… always human.
My review of Always Human
Although I love both main characters, I will admit that Sunati is my favorite of the two. She’s such a sweet and thoughtful person and I love how much effort she puts in trying to be a better girlfriend to Austen, especially after a particularly difficult conversation they have early on in their relationship. I also really like Austen because there are a lot of layers to her character. She cannot use mods due to a health condition, and in a society where mods are heavily used, she tends to stand out with her mod-free, natural looks. This is in fact what first draws Sunati to her. But as we quickly learn, Austen does not feel comfortable with being called ‘brave’ on virtue of not using mods. This serves as an interesting commentary on how people with disabilities are often romanticized for their differences, and I think that the author handled this very well.
The story is a slice of life exploration of Sunati and Austen’s romance, as well as their relationships and interactions with other characters such as their friends and family members. The story is also very character focused, which allows the reader to really connect with the main characters. The story was honestly so fun and pleasant to read and although the story isn’t necessarily plot-driven, you can’t help but keep turning the pages to see how things evolve for Sunati and Austen.
Writing style and tone
Although the story is filled with cuteness and romance, we also get more serious scenes, such as discussions about disability and body image. I also liked that despite how beautiful Sunati and Austen’s relationship is, it is in no way depicted as being perfect. Both characters have their flaws, and this translates to their relationship as well. Overall, the story has a good balance between adorable, heartwarming scenes and more serious ones.
Art style and color palette
I really enjoyed the art style in this graphic novel. There is something very soft and warm about the art style and I think that it suits the tone of the story perfectly. I also really enjoyed the use of color in this graphic novel. There are a lot of bright, neon colors used throughout the book, including lots of blues and pinks, which I think effectively convey the futuristic aspect of the story.
The story takes place in a futuristic Australia where people have access to all sorts of cool technologies, including ‘mods’, which allows them to make all sorts of modifications to themselves. Fashion mods for example are very popular and allow people to modify different aspects of their appearance, such as their eyes, hair style, skin imperfections, etc. I found the setting really cool and as I mentioned above, the color palette really helps to bring to life the futuristic aspect of the setting.
Not only does the story focus on a beautiful sapphic romance, but the book also features a lot of queer rep for various sexualities across the queer spectrum, including pansexuality rep. The book also features several non-binary/gender fluid characters, which I really liked.
My final thoughts
I really, really enjoyed this graphic novel. It has amazing characters, a beautiful sapphic romance, great queer rep, great disability rep, a beautiful art style and a really cool, futuristic setting. I can’t recommend it enough!
About the author
Ari North is a queer cartoonist who believes an entertaining story should also be full of diversity and inclusion. As a writer, an artist, and a musician, she wrote, drew, and composed the music for Always Human, a complete romance/sci-fi webcomic about two queer girls navigating maturity and finding happiness. She’s currently working on a second webcomic, Aerial Magic, which is about the everyday lives of the witches who work at a broomstick repair shop. She lives in Australia with her husband.