Bloom is the perfect read for a lazy Sunday, a trip to the beach, or anytime you need a gentle hug of a book. It is also light on the romance and a bit frustrating.
The book opens at the wedding of Ari's older sister, where we meet Ari and his four closest friends and bandmates. Ari is under pressure from his family to stay at home and help with the family bakery and from his band to leave for The City and start pursuing a career in music. He's at that new/young adult stage of trying to figure out both who he is and who he wants to be, defining himself both by what he is and what he isn't.
Ari sets out to hire a replacement for himself at the bakery, which we learn is in a bad financial way. Enter Hector, who is on a break from college and in town to settle his grandmother's affairs. Hector and Ari are both gay, but it's not a conflict with anyone. It simply is. The conflict in the book is much more "who do I want to be" and "am I so busy defining myself as 'not my parents' that I'm losing track of who I am?" There's also a heavy emphasis on finding out who your friends are and on separating yourself from toxic entanglements.
The bulk of the story, however, is very gentle and full of baking. There are loving illustrated sequences where Hector and Ari are making various baked goods, plus a scene where we glimpse Ari's parents flowing through the process of making phyllo. (This is quite difficult if you've never tried.)
Ganucheau's art is gentle and full of gestures and movement, but also flowers. The title of the book, "bloom," is both something flowers AND yeast do, plus the story takes place in the summer, so it's all quite lovely and meaningful. The three-color (black, white, and a blue-green wash) palette works well, too, keeping the focus on movement through the panels and the growing relationship between the two young men.
As a romance, this book is a bit frustrating and lacking characterization for Hector. His role is largely to be the nice, steady guy while Ari goes through a host of emotional swings and character growth. I would have really liked more of Hector's story, plus a longer arc following their romantic resolution. While this is absolutely a romance, it's a happy-for-now, not a happily-ever-after. Given how young the protagonists are, that's probably for the best.
Content warnings: fire, emotionally abusive friends