The Reluctant Romantic: Relationship Status

Posted February 26, 2016 by Lory in brief reviews, challenges / 17 Comments

TheReluctantRomantic-300x300For Doing Dewey’s Reluctant Romantic challenge, I decided it was a good time to read some graphic…something. I don’t actually have a good name for this genre, because “graphic novels” doesn’t quite cut it. Many of the books that often get lumped into this category are memoirs or nonfiction, and even the fiction books are not what I could call “novels.” In their length and substance, they’re more like short stories or novellas.

Leaving that question aside, let’s just say that I read a selection of books in which the pictures help to tell the story, generally drawing on the “comic strip” tradition, with multiple panels on a page and characters speaking in speech bubbles. I was reminded that one reason I don’t usually gravitate to this type of book is that they go by so quickly for me! Most can be read in an hour or two, and I miss the extended reading experience I usually am seeking. But I absolutely loved their creativity and visual energy, and will definitely seek out more in the future, probably more as a break between “regular” books than in a block on their own.

LovelaceBabbage  Persepolis  Stitches  Maus  Relish

My favorite find was The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua. I want Padua to quit her day job (she’s an animator for the film industry) and write more books like this! For one thing, it had a bit more heft than some of the others, so it wasn’t over quite so quickly. But mainly I loved that it was funny and informative and silly and serious and played around with the people and ideas and literary traditions of the Victorian era in a totally original way, while shedding light on some of our modern technology. This may not be a book for absolutely everyone, but for me it was perfect.

Also high on my list was Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. This author was born in the same year as I was, yet because she grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution she had a dramatically different childhood. It was moving and thought-provoking to see events I only heard of in school, and mostly ignored, experienced as they were happening by a girl who was in many ways just like me, yet in other ways so different. Each panel was carefully constructed with deceptive simplicity, reflecting the “child’s-eye” perspective yet showing a very adult sensitivity to composition and line.

I also need to mention Stitches by David Small. A renowned illustrator of children’s picture books, he turns his artistic talents here to the harrowing story of his own horrifically mismanaged childhood — unwise medical treatments leave him terribly disfigured, while his strangely distant parents offer little in the way of support or understanding. Small’s fluid and expressive drawing style brings painful scenes before us with cinematic intensity, awakening our compassion for a boy who turned suffering into art.

BoxersSaints  EthelErnest  Arrival

I also enjoyed all of the other books that I “speed dated” for this challenge:

  • Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
  • Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
  • Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan

…so I think our relationship will be continuing! Do you have any other suggestions for me?

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17 responses to “The Reluctant Romantic: Relationship Status

  1. When Katie announced her Reluctant Romantic Challenge, I really couldn’t think of a genre I wanted to try out. But this would have been the perfect choice for me. I keep hearing about all these great graphic books, but I have yet to read any of them. I feel like I wouldn’t like them as much (because they’re short, because I don’t really like having to read bubble thoughts). But, I think it would fun to give them a try sometime. I’m sure a lot of them would be worth it for me. The ones you mention all sound awesome!

  2. They are definitely worth the time, especially my top three. And hey, when the time commitment is so minimal, why not give them a shot?

  3. The more comics you read, the more you want to read, I always find! Would you be interested in something that’s a lengthy ongoing series, rather than a one-and-done volume like most of these you’re listing? If so, I think you might like Mike Carey’s The Unwritten. It’s a LOT of fun and plays with a lot of tropes that I think you’d enjoy.

  4. I’ve read very few graphic memoirs or nonfiction books (I hate calling them “novels”, too!) but Stitches is one, and oh, boy, it quickly made me appreciate the breadth and depth that’s possible in this format — that I had been kind of dismissive of as just comic books! American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is another one.
    I’ve been meaning to read just about all of the others that you’ve listed, too!

  5. These books all sound so good! I don’t know why I have such a hard time getting outside of my comfort zone and picking up a graphic novel/thing (digression – I recently saw a list describing these as graphic nonfiction and it just sounds so… violent!). It seems like this are short but awesome reads I should make time for. Thanks for joining in this month!

    • Yes, there just is no good name for this genre! But there are so many awesome reads within it, I do hope that you find one or more to dive into. Thank you for the event that inspired me to do so.

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