Many of you probably find the names Pedro and Judd
familiar from the third season of MTV's Real World. Not me. I
had never seen the show, and so was unaware of Pedro's public battle
with AIDS and his unique friendship with Judd, a cartoonist. I was amazed
and upset to realize that such a poignant and public story had escaped
my notice the first time around. Judd chronicles the story here, along
with Pedro's amazing life and the lessons he learned from having him
as a friend.
Of course the message here overpowers both the writing
and the art. Judd's writing style is straightforward, very casual, and
a breeze to read. It would seem like an easy thing to write (All the
dialogue is taped, right?) - but Judd's real skill is in selecting key
scenes and moments and ordering them cleverly to advance the plot. His
cartooning is the weaker part of the book, but still has a certain charm
and truth. It too is casual and not distracting. This actually works
to further emphasize the message; Judd's writing and drawing styles fall
away as you read and you only concentrate on the story, which is excellent.
A few nitpicky points: since I hadn't seen the Real
World, I hadn't seen photos of the cast. But from the few in the
book, Judd's caricatures don't really seem dead-on. In the beginning,
I briefly had trouble telling Pedro and Judd apart, though the narration
usually cleared it up. And their personalities soon become very distinct
and realistic. Judd does draw details such as settings, clothes and
crowds of people well.
Another odd thing was that in the introductory scenes,
Judd made a clear point that he wasn't as open-minded as he thought he
was, and Pedro taught him to be more accepting. But as the story unfolds,
Judd's misgivings seem brief and he seems to accept Pedro's situation
and friendship right away. There is no conflict between them; they immediately
become friends (and the truthfully-recorded details of their friendship
are what make the book so poignant.) This is fine, but it just didn't
seem to jive with the misgivings Judd went out of his way to explain
in the beginning.
But overall, I highly recommend this book. To me, it
hands-down beats out Tuesdays with Morrie as best tearjerker,
maybe because its AIDS message is so specific and timely. If you enjoy
Pedro and Me, check out the web
site for some good supplements.