I had originally picked this up as a friend mentioned it was longlisted for the Man Booker prize and graphic novels are my favorite format of literature these days. In all honesty, this is a very hard book for me to give a general review or rating to.
The book follows the Calvin, an air force employee who allows and old friend, Teddy, to stay with him after the disappearance and murder of his girlfriend Sabrina. Teddy is unresponsive most of the time and often spends nights listening to radio talking heads discuss current affairs. When a video of Sabrina’s death surfaces online, the reader sees how it affects Sandra, Sabrina’s sister, as well as Teddy and Calvin, though the latter never met her.
When the story is picked up by the mainstream media, hell breaks loose in a very quiet, disturbing way. Death threats are sent, conspiracy theorists refuse to believe the story of the murder and not only create their own narrative, but drag Calvin into it, threatening his family in the process.
To say this book is timely is an understatement. So much of this book is true to life; it really captures the current state of affairs, especially here in America. That being said, the biggest drawback of this work is how true to life it is. The characters are boring. No one is worth rooting for. The art is fine, but nothing thrilling. It’s like everyday life in graphic novel form. A review I read mentioned had this been a fiction work without the graphic novel element, it wouldn’t be receiving the praise it is, and I can’t disagree. That being said, I can’t pinpoint as to what the art actually adds to the work. Perhaps it’s a sense or melancholy when you, the reader, can see how despondent and empty these character’s lives feel. The characters were so normal and mundane, it did emphasize the “this could happen to anyone” point, but I didn’t find it as transformative and brilliant as most my peers have.
While I’m happy to have read it, I can honestly say I’ll never have the desire to read it again. This isn’t a book I would recommend to anyone feeling depressed, nor would I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick graphic novel read. This left me feeling lost and despondent, and I already feel like this 90% of the time in the current climate. As I said it’s true to life and timely, but nothing I would ever pick up for recreational reading. I can fully understand why it was listed for the Booker due to its “moral lesson” and I cannot fault its inclusion, but about halfway through this book it felt like a depressing chore to finish it, rather than the book I was so looking forward to beginning.
Author: Nick Drnaso
Three descriptors: Heartwrenching, Bleak, Muted