The Flowers of Evil Vol. 1 TP (Manga)
Publisher: Vertical
Release Date: May 2012
Price: $10.95
Creator: Shuzo Oshimi
Format: 208 pgs.; B&W; Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-9356-5446-9
Age Rating: Teen+
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Takao Kasuga only really loves to read, something he gets from his bookworm father.  But he also has a secret crush on pretty and smart Nanako. When Takao finds Nanako's gym clothes and, in a confused panic, ends up taking them home, he's wracked with guilt.  Things only get worse when Nakamura, the grumpy, weird girl in Takao's class, tell him that she saw him steal the gym clothes and that if he doesn't do what she says, she'll reveal his perversion to the whole school.

The plot of Oshimi’s manga might make it sound like a typical shojo (girls') drama or comedy, but the stark white cover gives readers a good hint of the twisted, off-kilter nature of Oshimi's psychological story.  In volume one, Oshimi quickly ratchets up the tension, portraying Takao with an almost perpetual look of terror or nervousness and allowing tears to flood from him, rather than settling for just a blush or sweat droplet.  Likewise, Nakamura's expression flits between a deep, knowing gaze and a maniacal grin, her face filling the panel so that readers feel as trapped by her as Takao is.  Oshimi's has a gift for laying out his characters within a panel for the maximum emotional impact.  The dark nature of the story, Nakamura's references to “perversion,” and the budding sexuality of the characters make this a better choice for older teens.  For readers who want psychological stories featuring teens, pair this with the lighter, but equally well-illustrated Genkaku Picasso series by Usamaru Furuya (from VIZ Media).

--Snow Wildsmith: Writer and former teen librarian and ALA/YALSA committee member.