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June 21, 2015

Shoplifter by Michael Cho

ShoplifterWe’ve all seen those mug shots. In some cases, being caught shoplifting is a shortcut to being publicly denounced as a thief minus the route of television and newspaper reports. Your picture with your name and other personal details are posted inside the store. Some stores will ask hapless offenders to hold stolen merchandise for the entire world to see. In rare cases, you’ll see well-turned out individuals who could be your neighborhood white collar office employee in the lineup, which is what Corinna Park, the main character in SHOPLIFTER, turns out to be.

Michael Cho’s debut graphic novel about a young woman finding her way in an unnamed-big city was one of the most anticipated books lined up by folks at Pantheon for the year.  Corinna Park could easily be someone we know: Studied English literature in college and feels trapped and unfulfilled by her current advertising job (“Four years of Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Forster. Now writing copy for…foot cream.”)

Her sense of purpose sapped by the seemingly endless tedium of her existence, Corinna knows there’s more to life than writing copy but feels too trapped to find it. It takes what appears to be a series of unrelated events (starting with a meltdown at a meeting) for things to come to a head and for that moment of clarity to arrive. Michael Cho’s narrative depicts this moment so eloquently, in elegant drawings, that it brings tears to one’s eyes.

The beauty of graphic novels lies in its ability to tell stories in fewer words, since drawings show body language and expressions. SHOPLIFTER’s drawings are spare, yet powerful. I admit to only a passing acquaintance with graphic novels, mostly with old-school Archie kind. So I marveled at the drawing and storytelling style of SHOPLIFTER, with its spot-on portrayals of the modern world as we know it: 24-hour sensationalist cable news, online dating sites and references to social media and pop culture. If you’re looking for a graphic novel story with an uplifting theme, SHOPLIFTER may just steal your heart.


Shoplifter is on sale September 2, 2014. Available in local bookstores.

PRH Penguin Random House is the world’s first truly global trade book publisher. It was formed on July 1, 2013, upon the completion of an agreement between Bertelsmann and Pearson. Penguin Random House employs more than 10,000 people globally across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

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