I fell in love with this graphic novel last year, and I am glad to share it for our current reading theme.
Written and Illustrated by Emil Ferris
Published by Fantagraphics (2017).
ISBN: 1606999591 (ISBN13: 9781606999592) Literary Awards: Harvey Awards Nominee for Book of the Year (2018), Ignatz Award Nominee for Outstanding Artist / Outstanding Graphic Novel / Outstanding Story (2017), Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Graphic Novel (2018), Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album—New, Best Writer/Artist (for Emil Ferris) & Best Coloring (for Emil Ferris) AND nominated for Best Lettering (for Emil Ferris) & Best Publication Design (designed by Jacob Covey) (2018), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2017), Litsy Award for Graphic Novel (2017). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
As can be seen in the book description above, this is a multi-awarded graphic novel, and deservedly so. This, by far, is one of the most complex, multi-layered graphic novels I have read to date. It is allegorical with a dab of the mysterious, high-brow but neither too sure of itself nor pretentious in the least, labyrinthine with its story upon story yet never unnecessarily convoluted; the pacing superbly calibrated.
At the heart of the narrative is ten year old Karen Reyes, a comic book aficionado, lover of monsters and all things gruesome, budding artist, and self-appointed private detective. Karen, with her superior sleuthing skills, is determined to discover the truth behind their neighbour’s unexpected death (suspected murder), Anka Silverberg, a Holocaust survivor who was forced into child prostitution to survive during the war.
The narrative shows different timelines which should have been confusing, but was so skilfully executed that it seemed seamless. Karen had a lot of growing up to do at age ten with her mother dying, her gigolo brother whose past seems to continually haunt him, and dealing with the everyday monstrous realities of elementary school:
This particular scene struck a chord within me. Apart from showing that this book does contain mature themes more suitable for older readers, it also shows how a girl’s rebellious steak, sharp and acerbic tongue, witty comebacks – hold nothing in comparison to young boys’ physically violent capabilities. It reminded me of this quote often attributed to Margaret Atwood, and which was likewise mentioned in the tv series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.
This is a book that one should take time reading. It is hefty, fairly thick and detailed, and tears at one’s insides. I had to take a breather for every major section as it was pretty heavy going. Yet, there is also that voyeuristic aspect to the storytelling, compelling the reader to look further and deeper, while preparing one’s self to be horrified at the unexpected discovery and twists in the end. This graphic novel does end with a cliffhanger – and I am avidly looking out for its sequel.
If you don’t know this book yet, I urge you to find it immediately. Emil Ferris is a genius.
#WomenReadWomen2019: Country – United States of America