graphic novel: (noun) a novel in comic-strip format
I thought I’d make that clear because I got raised eyebrows when I said “graphic novel” to my innocent friends. It’s a novel and it’s illustrated. The one I read is quite famous – Blankets by Craig Thompson. His other, perhaps more famous work, is called Habibi. I actually hadn’t realised it was his work until recently.
Blankets is an emotional roller-coaster in the form of a 600+ page, big fat book. Mine is a hardcover so it’s really quite heavy. I actually didn’t carry it with me to uni for that reason – I read in the car. I don’t know if Blankets is supposed to make people cry but it made me quite sad.
Before I delve into my review, I’d like to say a few words about my first impressions of graphic novels:
- They’re easy to get through.
- The creativity can be quite intimidating!
- No words wasted.
- So, they’re quite precise and to the point.
- Which makes them better than a lot of books out there.
- It’s an amazing blend of illustrations and words.
- And sometimes words are completely unnecessary and absent.
- They’re perfect reads if you want to read a good story and you want it quick.
Here’s why graphic novels are great:
- They can motivate people to read more.
- They’re a great choice for people with literacy issues like autism or dyslexia. Although they’re not reading whole paragraphs, they’re at least getting involved in the act and getting the experience that would otherwise be out of their access.
- They involve the reader in ways similar to that of traditional reading. It’s not a puzzle yet it makes you decode and use your linguistic skills to connect the words to the picture.
- They can help improve creative writing skills simply because they’re so uniquely written.
- They also show you the kind of details a good book should focus on.
- The pictures literally illustrate the kinds of details in expressions or body language that should be written out in prose work.
- Those who lack social skills can learn a lot about facial expressions and language through graphic novels.
I mention the last point because in my linguistics course we talked about how, in the age of social media and online friendship, the newer generations are unable to correctly identify facial expressions and gestures due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. Graphic novels can be a simple effort to try to bridge that gap in real life.
I absolutely enjoyed every minute of Blankets. It was a different kind of experience, but it’s the book itself that made it so unique. I’ll definitely read it again!
The novel is not just about two people falling in love. Some reviews I’d looked at focused solely on how the book is reminiscent of first love’s innocence and beauty, but I think it’s more about an individual and not a couple. The protagonist, Craig (named after the novelist), is part of an orthodox/traditional Christian community and the belief system of his family weighs down on him because it comes in the way of his artistic expression and how he wants to interact with the world. It’s also the source of his anxiety because he’s unable to let go the guilt he feels due to every little sin, and this actually drives him away from the dogma.
An important force in the work is the bullying Craig faces at the hands of the kids at school and the Christian camps. It’s beautiful to see (literally) Craig’s relationship with Raina blossom into a sweet relationship where the two find solace in eachother’s company. There’s the angst of teenage love, of being separated and of being unsure of yourself in the other person’s company.
I feel my review doesn’t do justice to Blankets, but I hope it makes you pick it up. It’s important to not go into it expecting a love story even though it will make you feel warm and result in sighs. I’m glad I knew barely anything when I started reading. It’s about love and growing up, about discovering that you’re an individual in a community, about getting disenchanted with the beliefs that you were born into. At the heart of it, it’s a story about siblings and the way we hurt them and take care of them.
I can’t wait to read it again. It’s such a perfect book for cool winter nights. I must mention that the drawings are not entirely ‘innocent’, so I’d recommend it to mature audiences.
Oh, and the book does have blankets – a really nice one actually!
Here’s something from a recent book haul! Siddharta by Hermann Hesse. Looking forward to it!