“I could tell I was standing too still and breathing too silently. I prayed she didn’t notice, but she must have, she was so close to me.”
I was sent this book by Walker Books a couple of months ago and I was immediately intrigued by the the idea of it as a ‘Graphic Memoir’. I know that this isn’t the first graphic memoir, in fact there are many that I’d love to get my hands on, but this is actually the first one I have ever read and boy did I enjoy it! If I had read this a while ago it most certainly would be on my list of Top 5 Graphic Novels. It has everything you would want from a graphic memoir; a compelling and moving story, beautiful artwork, and hilarious writing. Let’s briefly sum up the story:
15 year old Maggie goes to Camp Bellflower for Girls, as is customary for her summers, but this year something changes. She finds herself falling for an older camp member and begins questioning herself and her sexuality.
Although Maggie and her relationship with Erin, the older girl, is at the centre of this story we also get to follow her time at camp – a time where she gets on with her life, shooting for her D.E, trying to stop sleepwalking, trying to deal with bullies and gossip, and simply messing around with her friends. All this, paired with Thrash’s incredibly skill at writing for graphic novels, adds a level of realism which is what you would expect and desire from a graphic memoir. Moreover this shines through in the theme of coming-out, or more precisely in the coming to terms of your own sexuality. The realism of the dialogue and use of narration (ie. the reader being able to read Maggie’s thoughts during actions of the story) meant that her internal conflict and her struggle in understanding her own emotions is made clear, something I think will resonate with readers part of the LGBTQ+ society and those who are not equally. What’s especially nice is that those friends whom she does confide in don’t really seem bothered, they’re there to support her no matter what!
Some people have criticised the book for it’s art style saying it’s too simple but personally I think that is exactly why it works so well. To put your own story down onto paper, and not only that but to do it with pencils and paints is very courageous. It’s something so personal and the simplicity of the art encapsulates this; it’s simple but by no means lazy or boring! The balance between panels and larger pieces is done so right, and some of these larger ones are so gorgeous, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Also the colouring is really lovely, it has quite a toned down look which I think works perfectly with the story – it’s not trying to be anything else, it’s not a bright Marvel comic book or a dark manga, it’s simply real.
I feel obliged to talk about the end of the story however if you are at all intrigued by the book and think you might pick it up then do not read on! I won’t be giving away specifics but I think it’s best you turn around here. All gone? Good! So, the ending. I was really unsure as to how they would wrap up this story, because not only is it a true story but also, even if Maggie were to have come to terms with herself and her family and friends and tried a relationship with Erin there’s still the slight issue of the age gap and the effects of that – Erin out at university whilst Maggie starts studying for exams in Atlanta. Despite all this I didn’t expect the ending or the abrupt nature of it. It was all over so suddenly and I was honestly a bit unsatisfied with it. But on reflection wasn’t that the point? Life isn’t always satisfying and as she says herself:
“Not every moment has to happen”
Overall I really enjoyed this graphic novel – I read it in a day and often find myself thinking back to it. Although I understand that many will find the art style a little crude I think it’s still possible to enjoy the story itself, and not only that but to find yourself relating to the characters within it because what the book does best is base itself in reality.