Boys Weekend

Created by: Mattie Lubchansky 
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: June 2023

Boys Weekend is a story about having to confront that you are an entirely different person later in life and that your life is so much better at home, where you have people that love you for who you grew into being. Sammie is a woman who has been asked to be the best man at an old friend’s wedding, which happens to include a bachelor trip to El Campo (basically future Las Vegas). But this old friend knew them before they transitioned, and as one of “the boys” in college. When asked by their coworker if their old friend is good with gender stuff, Sammie says “Could be worse. I mean, he’s trying!”

The introduction to Sammie and their situation is one of the first things I loved about this graphic novel. We meet Sammie in an artist’s workshop where they are constructing a very large sculpture as a work-for-hire artist’s assistant. Sammie and their coworker are in industrial aprons, with safety goggles, and they’re talking about this trip that they are mildly dreading. It turns out that their old friend from before doesn’t know everything about their transition, or what their life is like now. But by talking through it with their friends in a playful way, we learn about them: they are transfem, they are not going to have the awkward conversation about taking hormones with him, and they are going to have to go guy-mode. Then, after work, we see where they live with their partner and the conversation continues. It’s a really effective way to show Sammie in their life and give the reader a sense of perspective. This is where they want to be, this is where they are safe and comfortable to be themself. And they have to leave it for… well, future Las Vegas.

Boys Weekend is separated into the many days of Sammie’s trip to El Campo. At the top of the section are: The day, the itinerary, and a text message from their partner, Mia. This is a great mechanic to let you know where in the weekend we are (starting on Thursday with the flight out to El Campo), and what the plans are supposed to be. For example: “Thursday Night: General chill at the Urbanian Casino and Hotel, everyone fends for themselves for dinner. Take it easy, you animals!”, which is followed by a text message from Mia asking about their flight. As the graphic novel progresses, it’s fun to see how this simple mechanic falls in or out of sync with what is happening on the page. Because would you believe the Boys Weekend goes a little bit off the rails?

Created by Mattie Lubchansky, Boys Weekend has a visual style that works well for the tone of the story. It is rounded, in some ways, and some exaggerated features come in handy when the visual language of the graphic novel starts to bend and play with Sammie’s experience (and stress). In some ways the innocence of the style does not fully prepare you for the darker themes later in the story, which I think is a great way to convey the out-of-place nature of the events. Sammie is trying their best to fit in, but the group of people (and the very nature of the setting) are making it hard to be cool with everything that is happening around them. One of the plot elements in this story is that a lot of the groom’s friends are kind of uppity tech people who get easily swindled into a Silicon Valley-esque guru seminar ( cough Cult *cough) situation. 

After my first read of the graphic novel, I thought there were too many plot elements. Too many things adding up to the bigger picture, distracting from the real central theme of the story. But thinking about it more, this element is what makes it such a relatable and thoughtful story about identity and life. It’s not just as easy as surviving the weekend or having a personal talk with an old friend you fell out of touch with. There’s also the problems of society and interpersonal struggles that are not related to the wild misconceptions people have about gender. Sammie calls home during a particularly trying time in the plot. It’s Friday night, they have made it back to their room before dinner. They call their friends to ask for advice. Their friend says to dump the groom, but they don’t think they can because they care about him as a person. But on the other hand, they don’t think that they can commit to the friendship when he can’t fully accept their life. Their friend says “we all lose people post-transition and I think hanging on to the ones you can isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” But also, on the other hand, “you’re so much happier with everyone else! With Mia, with your job,” and with their friends back home. And during this conversation, one of the groom’s friends comes into the room and says “Hey man, you ready for dinner?”, misgendering them as they have been doing all weekend. So they decide to finally wear their favorite red dress, which their partner packed for them secretly in an attempt to remind them who they are. With their favorite dress on, it’s time to tackle dinner with the boys, and whatever it is they’ve unleashed as part of their weird tech cult.

Books like Boys Weekend are incredibly important in our current moment in the United States, where trans rights are under an extreme attack in many states. Sammie’s life, their friendships, and their relationships, play a critical role in telling the story of someone’s experience. It’s funny, deeply insightful, and even more wild than you’d expect for a story about a hedonistic future-tech-Vegas.

Boys Weekend is due out June 6.