There will be spoilers for the OEL comic series Bloom.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to pressure to work a family business, financial instability, death, bullying, peer pressure, and accidental fire, as it appears in the comic.
Aristotle, or Ari as he prefers to be called, is ready to leave his hometown. Unfortunately, his father is unwilling to let him go, as the small family bakery they own and run isn't doing very well, and Ari is the only other person his parents can rely on. Ari has bigger dreams than being a baker, though. He and his friends are part of a band, and Ari wants nothing more than to move with them to the city and play music. But as it stands, it seems the only way for him to escape is if he can find someone to take his spot at his family's bakery.
After many useless interviews, Ari finally meets Hector. Hector is in town to tie up his grandmother's affairs, having put a pause on his schooling to do so. Unlike Ari, Hector loves to bake, and when Ari pulls him into the bakery, it's clear that if anyone is going to be able to take over for Ari, it's Hector. But as Ari begins to work alongside Hector, Ari finds himself enjoying working in the bakery again. The summer is hot, but the relationship between Ari and Hector is getting hotter.
The art is cute. It's very inconsistent, and I wouldn't say it's my preference. However, there are some stunning two-page pieces that are used to show the passage of time that are truly stunning. It's much more cartoony, childish, and rounded than I would prefer, but again, that's just me. However, at the end of this story, some behind-the-scenes things are provided, one of which is some examples of the production artwork, which I actually really prefer. It's much more angular and appears to be more consistent thanks to the structure, and I wish that had been the style they went with. It makes everyone look much more adult, which they are, and is just generally more pleasing to my eye. Still, the art isn't bad. It just isn't what I typically like to see.
While the art isn't my favorite, I really like this story's setup. I love a young adult trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, balancing his parents' expectations, the pressure from his friends, and a new, budding love interest. It's very relatable and lends so much understanding to Ari's character, as he has outbursts and is crueler than he should be to his parents. The story's foundation really helps build out Ari's character beyond a frustrated young adult into a multi-faceted person overwhelmed by the unknown he is faced with. It really makes him likable as a person, and I really appreciate it.
With that being said, Ari is the most developed character shown. Hector feels a bit hollow, and as much as I love the beautiful timelapse spreads, we miss out on a lot of character and relationship development. It makes the narrative feel disjointed and superficial, which is so unfortunate since it had so much potential with this setup. We jump from snapshot to snapshot of time, and sometimes, the character's relationships change so drastically from each jump in time that it can be jarring and even confusing. This undermines the romance between Hector and Ari as it seems to manifest out of nowhere, tethered together by a few brief moments.
Don't get me wrong, the moments we do see are fluffy and sweet, but it never felt like it truly reached a realistic level of romance. Hector and Ari end up kissing, which felt like a massive jump from their exclusively platonic and friendlier relationship up until that point. They are together for a substantial amount of time to form a deep relationship, but we don't get to see that beyond the little segments of the beautiful two-page spreads we get. I would have loved to have seen more of those moments in-depth. Mainly, I would have loved to have seen Ari realize when his feelings moved from friendship to romantic feelings and see how Hector's feelings evolved, too, but we don't get that, which makes the romance seem unbelievable.
This had so much potential. I loved the story's foundation, but it ended up feeling a bit underdeveloped. I still enjoyed it, but it left me wanting. There has been information that a sequel is being released this year, which I am excited to get my hands on. Unfortunately, as of writing this, I cannot find any indication of when it will be released (beyond the Goodreads release date of January this year, which has come and gone), so I am just stuck waiting. If you're looking for a soft coming-of-age story with very light romance, then here you go, but if you're looking for depth in your romance, unfortunately, this isn't it.
Have you read Bloom? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!