Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review: Adolescence in pictures

Well, there's a first time for everything and the time finally came for me to read a graphic novel. Yes, I did it. I read a graphic novel.

Enter Craig Thompson's Blankets, which I was inspired to read from a glowing review by write meg! Blankets is a heavy volume that serves as a semi-autobiographical record of Thompson's adolescent years. It opens with boyish fights between Craig and his younger brother, Phil, during their childhood in the blustery winter of Wisconsin country. Thompson then proceeds to explore family life, sibling rivalry, and his awkward journey through adolescence, characterizing himself as an outsider. Craig's devotion to Christianity leads him down a righteous path as he matures...and also leads him to church camp where he meets Raina. Ah, first love. Thompson's illustrated novel (the term he prefers) takes on a lot as Craig faces issues of love, religion, and identity.

Before I get into a deeper analysis, I have to say that I enjoyed the graphic format. I'm not sure I'd be into the sci-fi side of graphica, because I'm not into sci-fi. But reading a 582-page novel in only a couple of hours? SWEET! [However, I discovered that graphica is really easy to speed through, so I had to focus on paying close attention to the illustrations.]

I have mixed feelings about this one, and I can't quite define my opinion. It definitely didn't live up to my expectations after reading Meg's review, because I didn't really sympathize much with the character. I thought he was, to put it bluntly, kind of a wimp. I get it; you feel like you don't fit in. And yes, the trying years of adolescence can give you strength and ultimately define you. But do I really need to hear you endlessly whine about how you were teased because of your shoulder-length, Jared-Leto-circa-My-So-Called-Life hair? The religious undertones (or OVERtones) were a little too much for my taste, but that's not the author's fault. The love story is perfectly adolescent; it's that relationship that feels like the only thing in the world at that age—a feeling that's next to impossible to authentically retain in memory as you grow up and it all becomes part of the past.

Thompson can certainly be praised for his honesty, and it really showed in his illustrations (which I quite enjoyed. I respect this art so much). He tried to address many parts of his life but never really fully developed on any of them. I guess maybe that was his point is painting a portrait of his formative years when things seem hodgepodge without any clear answer. I've read lots of reviews from people that love this novel and lots of people that take issue with it, so it really depends on the reader. I'm certain that this is one of those stories in which the reader's personal experiences will shape his/her opinion of it. Maybe I'm just too "adult" now to remember the feeling behind the melodramatic teen years, but I found the story a bit hokey and felt empty at the end rather than inspired. I think I enjoyed the process of reading more than the story itself.

I do want to read Thompson's illustrated travelogue, Carnet De Voyage, though. It's been on my TBR list for months, and I never realized these books had the same author until a couple days ago!

Does anyone have any good graphic novel recommendations??


Melissa said...

Maus I and II, if you're into Holocaust stuff. Persepolis and Perseoplis 2 are both really good. As is Plain Janes (more fluffy tho). And American Born Chinese. Also, try anything by Shaun Tan.

Lauren said...

I love love love this book!!!! One of my favorites of all time. I also read Carnet De Voyage and highly recommend it. Also, definitely recommend Marjane Satrapi, David Mazzuchelli (Asterios Polyp), Dash Shaw (the upcoming Bodyworld) and Alex Robinson (another fav)!