A new generation of queer love: Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau

A graphic novel exploring baking, romance, and what makes us happy.

Panels from Bloom: Hector and Ari watch Ari's parents make phyllo, in awe.

Bloom is a graphic novel about a young man in a small town, working in his family’s bakery. The entire book is drawn in black and a beautiful blue-green.1

We both love this book.

So many of the moments are whimsical. They’re just moments. They don’t move the plot forward in any obvious way. But they add up. And the result is that we slow down to enjoy the moments and moods.

This slowing down parallels the journey of the main character, Ari. He is super impatient to move on to “the next big thing” of moving to the city with his not-quite-fully-formed band. Through the book, and through his journey, he starts to appreciate and enjoy the moments too.

In this way Bloom is a meditation on patience and slowness and joy. Ari has temporarily lost his joy. He’s too focussed on what’s next. Then along comes Hector whose joy for baking is contagious. And Hector’s joy for baking makes patience easy, and Ari’s relationship with his parents eases too.

Ari’s parents, taken together, are a bit like Yoda, riding around in his backpack telling him to work harder and be more present. But Ari, like many teenagers, is longing to be somewhere new, away from here.

Romance is kind of at the heart of this book. But somehow sexuality is not. Queerness is present but not othered. Sexuality is part of each character, as it is is for many teenagers, but queerness is treated with the same normalcy as other relationships.

It is, perhaps, a new generation of queer love. There’s no coming out scene, there’s no internalized homophobia. There’s no overt homophobia at all, from any of the characters. There’s even an annoying cis-dude who represents toxic masculinity, and he gives Ari a hard time in other ways, but interestingly, homophobia is absent from this story. Teen sexuality is difficult terrain for any story and Bloom finds a path that is potent and compelling.2

There’s all the teen angst but it’s not filtered through an overly simplistic lens of sexuality. It’s given space to be complex and layered, and woven into art, and baking and family life in a small town.

This is a beautiful read.3

  1. We’re not sure exactly what this means, but there’s a note in the front matter about the illustration process: “Bloom was completely rendered in Photoshop. Inked using GrutBrushes’s “papaya grind” and toned with Kyle T. Webster’s halftone brushes.”
  2. The lack of homophobia could have come across as naive or overly romanticized. But somehow the authors have managed to make it seem normal. It gives us hope.
  3. Sherwin thinks love is fire. Love is danger. Rebecca think this makes no sense.