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Bad Friends

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  595 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Starred review from Publishers Weekly:

Told with arresting honesty and strength, this graphic novel conjures a grim vision of growing up in late-1990s South Korea. Rebelling against her abusive father and teachers who routinely beat her, 16-year-old Pearl smokes, slacks off at school, and runs with the bad-girls crowd. Yet her situation is well-adjusted compared to her fell
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  595 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Dave Schaafsma
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
After reading a memoir at least partly about cruel physical abuse, I now read Korean-born artist Ancco's autobiographical fiction of two girls. The main character is Pearl, who looks back on her chaotic adolescence, where she was wild, stayed out late, and was beaten constantly and brutally by her father, who she admits didn't know how to help her as she became, for several years, "bad." She was beaten by teachers, by school bullies, and when she leaves home with a woman she becomes friends with ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Pearl is beaten at home, at school, and even by the neighbours and yet still somehow considers herself lucky given the distance of time. Looking back she harbours no ill-will to her father despite the horrific beatings. There is a graphically recounted event involving her father repeatedly smashing her with a broken badminton racket's aluminum frame, ripping open her head and hands and covering Pearl in enough blood that her sister passed out simply looking at her. Another incident where she was ...more
Anita Fajita Pita

Oof. This black and white graphic about some pivotal years of young South Korean girls - mc Pearl, her "bad" friends: Jeong-Ae and the rest of the crowd, will take you into dark places. Pearl is now a cartoonist, and this book is her reflecting on her troubled youth in shadowed back alleys, deserted door stoops, shitty schools, and messy homes where girls like Pearl are beaten by seemingly every adult for all of their deviant behaviour.

Jeong-Ae's house, where her mother is never home and her
Rod Brown
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Told from the perspective of an adult South Korean cartoonist reflecting upon her adolescence, this story by an adult South Korean cartoonist gives the impression of autobiography but is apparently fiction.

Pearl and Jeong-ae are two teenage girls who have been deemed juvenile delinquents by family, classmates and teachers. In a culture steeped in domestic violence and corporal punishment, the authority figures and men in their lives either believe frequent and severe beatings will fix the girls
Yuna Lee
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
K.W. Colyard
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Han Kang, Min Jin Lee, and Crystal Hana Kim have given us their own unique glimpses into the Korean peninsula's history and present, but few novels of South Korea have gone to so dark a place as Ancco's semi-autobiographical work, Bad Friends. This brief, striking vision of South Korea's early Sixth Republic presents a side of the country rarely seen in the West, one driven by alcohol, drugs, and prostitution.

K-pop fans, beware. Bad Friends will shatter your illusions of a bubbly, happy South Ko

Shayna Ross
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
What makes a friend good or bad? When you make a bad decision due to the influence of your friend, is it solely on the friend for being a bad influence? Bad Friends analyzes these questions with a story that is a little painful and a little raw, but very telling.

Sixteen-year-old Pearl lives in South Korea during the late-1990s in a relatively privileged life with a family and roof over her head until she became friends with Jeong-ae, who lives in poverty. Now running with the "bad girls," Pearl
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
After first seeing Ancco’s book featured on display at Drawn & Quarterly’s store front in Montreal, I read it in a single sitting while perusing a small indie comic shop in Vancouver.

Ancco’s sparse language is paired with fine pencil drawing in this graphic novel. Both of these have heavy and weighted effects. Ancco doesn’t filter her work through humour or rose coloured glasses, offering readers a stark glimpse of a childhood/teenager years filled with physical abuse, transformative friendship
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
absolutely unbelievable - the acceptance of abuse in this culture (for whatever reason) is unbelievable. the beatings at home are one thing, but the teachers, authorities, and the men (complete strangers) beating on girls as if they have every right to do so, and no one offers to help? I seriously just shook my head as I read this. the expressiveness of the girls' faces is really exceptional and conveys exactly their fears, sorrow, and ultimately acceptance, which is so sad. ...more
Sandy Plants
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, mental-health
The story was VERY hard to follow (am I slow??) but it was BEAUTIFUL and so worth the confusion.
Carrian Troxler
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didnt really like it. Maybe something's were lost in translation? Not for me. ...more
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This graphic novel made me a little depressed because of the subject matter but the art is superb. The inkiness reflects the dark times that Pearl goes through in her adolescence. There’s a lot of self-introspection that goes on, and a lot of it has to do with Pearl’s childhood friend, with whom she had dreams. The adults in this book are awful, thinking that violence will rehabilitate a child’s bad behaviour. Personally, I think that Pearl just needed someone to be kind to her.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this in one sitting. A harrowing tale of violence, abuse, pain, and turmoil. Not sure I could really find a silver lining other than the resilience of Pearl to overcome these multitude levels of abuse. Be prepared for brutal and stark cartooning mixed with haunting, almost distant artwork. The kind of portrayal that makes child abuse common. Powerful
The story was alright, but I found it a little difficult to follow at times. It kind of jumped around, which I wasn't a fan of. I did like that it focused on female friendship over time, but this didn't really stick with me. ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Seemingly flawless translation. The foreground details were so well done that they felt like my own memories. The crude faces really added to the horror of some of the people's actions. The plain storytelling made this all the more bleak. ...more
Wow this book was really brutal and, to be honest, quite depressing.

Why read it then?

What made me borrow this book was because it’s a translated comic, and one from Korea. I haven’t read many Korean comics, and this was a rare one on the library shelves.

The story is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Pearl, growing up in the 1990s in a poor neighbourhood in Seoul, South Korea. Her father is abusive, but then so is nearly every relative in the building she lives in, who treat her like a pun
Shelby Criswell
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
*Big time trigger warning for depictions of violence and s*xual abuse!!

The storytelling is a bit all over the place, but that's how it feels when you're in the thick of a traumatic phase in your life so I can't totally blame the author. All of the characters feel incredibly real to me. Well worth a read if you can stomach dark and hard imagery of real life shittiness.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The stark, often monotone, drawings reflect the brutal realities faced by main character, Pearl, in this graphic novel depicting life in 1990's South Korea. Pearl seems at first a typical child, but after she endures abuse at home and at school she turns to the one place she feels welcomed and normal, the 'bad girls' crowd at school. Soon she and her best friend are running away and trying to make a life for themselves, though they are still only teenagers with no real options.

The story is told
Nov 04, 2020 rated it liked it
An emotional coming to age story of remembering the good times in an otherwise grimey and blemished past. Sometimes, life brings us to strange and unexpected places and we lose those who we never imagined we would. Moody, bleak, but stylistic because of it. Decent read.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before. Growing up in Korea, two girls have terrible early lives. They find solace in each other sometimes. At other times... not so much.
More Bedside Books
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Friendships formed for specific points of our lives, whether dissolving as easily as they arose or, ending in regrettable ways always add something to our lives, sometimes lingering well beyond our last encounter. The Korean comic Bad Friends by Ancco charts a circuitous path from the forged friendship of two teenagers Pearl and Jeong-Ae together as classmates, delinquents, runaways and hostesses, to eventual sudden separation.

Pearl grows up in an environment where abuse is around every corner,
Jeanette Paak
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I went to the bookstore just to browse and found this one. I didn’t know what to expect but man I left there with feeling...a lot of feelings.

The story takes place in Korea and the narrator/main character (Pearl) mainly focuses and talks about her best friend (Jeong-ae) from high school.
Jeong-ae has an abusive alcoholic father and a mother who is never home. She has seen and dealt with the worse kind of abuse.
She introduces Pearl to her messy world and they run away together for one night. An
George K. Ilsley
I’m calling it a fictional memoir because the main character is a cartoonist. A gruelling story of violence and abuse which made me wonder about life in Korea — is domestic violence (parents, teachers, friends) really so commonplace? The narrative thrust here was more of a gritty mosaic than an arc — the story wanders and jumps around. Almost everyone is horrible to each other. There is a pot in the tree. Smoking gets you beaten. Friends disappear.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
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Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
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Max Loh
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
TW: Violence. This was a depressing read because Ancco draws very deeply from her lived experience, which, if this book is anything to go by, was really tough and messy growing up. Bad Friends is a book length reflection and recollection of her childhood friendships, and how her own life could have taken a different turn if her luck ran out despite playing the cards which she had been dealt in life the best she could. Her deceptively simple linework manages to capture these moments of great emot ...more
Vel Veeter
Apr 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an absolutely heartbreaking and gorgeous graphic novel by a Korean artist. I will post a picture to close off this post to give you a sense of it. The art is absolutely haunting, and the art style is a lot like Akira, without the body horror and technology. The story involves a young woman who is kicked out of her house for being queer by an abusive father, and forced to find her way in the emptiness of her city, and like a lot of abandoned youth falls into sex work/trafficking. But it’s ...more
Layla Hussain
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 actually.

Very slow story-telling. This is supposed to be a graphic novel, which means it should have short dialogues that are on point in order to avoid distracting the reader’s attention.
It was also full of tautology and i was bored & annoyed with the repetitive information most of the times. However, I can’t fully blame the author for that because this is a translated book.

The drawing was amazing though and it suited the vibe of the story very well (it’s the main reason why Im giving this
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dark, dark, dark. The subject matter and the art work. This graphic novel, originally written in Korean, tells the story of adolescent friendships that stick with you well into adulthood and not always for positive reasons. There is so much "normalized" domestic violence in this book that it makes sense that our protagonists would befriend one another and even more sense that they would go on to make toxic choices together. A quick read but I have a feeling the images will not fade quickly from ...more
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this book hard-hitting at times, but thats the point I guess. Really poignant and well written, with just the right amount of detail. I found sometimes that the way the story was being told got me a bit mixed up with who the narrator was referring to in certain scenes, but apart from that it was a good read overall.
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Graphic novel artist from South Korea.

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