I think I may have discovered my new favourite genre: the hybrid YA/graphic novel. Although I need to coin a catchier name. Cominovs? Yaphics?
As graphic novels, comics and manga become embedded in the teen psyche it seems that teen characters who write/star in/lead a parallel existence in comics are long overdue.
All these books take a very different approach (and are very different books) but I think that demonstrates the myriad possibilities of the Teeniegraph, as I’m calling it for now.
Suzanne Kamata’s Gadget Girl, for example doesn’t have illustrations or a graphic component but the descriptions of Aiko’s secret, self-published manga, whose lead, Gadget Girl is endowed with superhuman strength and extreme precision after swallowing a shooting star made me wish it did.
Aiko has cerebral palsy and her American sculptor mother has made her a muse. Uncomfortable with being used in this way, Aiko longs to reconnect with the Japanese father she’s never known and rebels by reading manga and listening to J-pop. The story of how Aiko is outed as Gadget Girl’s creator, reconnects with her mother on an art trip to France and finally makes contact with her father is sweet, charming and unusual in its honesty about Aiko’s struggle to form an identity by embracing her differences.
In Cherie Priest’s I Am Princess X, the drawings add a charming parallel to the otherwise slightly sketchy narrative of two childhood friends, May and Libby, who make a comic about Princess X. May loses her best friend, Libby, in a tragic accident, moves away and her life is never the same. Three years go by, she returns to Seattle and sees a sticker on a pole of Princess X–the character that that only the two of them knew about.
But Libby’s dead. Isn’t she?
Great premise, and the truth about Libby, told via May’s investigation (the webcomic of Princess X’s adventures providing clues) was gripping. I was engrossed! I even missed my tube stop. OK it’s a little far-fetched. But if it’s reality you want my friend, what are you doing on this blog anyway?
Cecil Castellucci’s tragic The Year of the Beasts makes the best use of the Teeniegraph format, perhaps due to the author’s experience as a writer of novels and comics.
The two stories, a magic realism infused tale of two sisters and the jealousy between them after the carnival comes to their small town and the myth-inspired comic narrative intersect to stunning effect. Very clever.
And finally, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby a book I’ve heard so much about from writers and bloggers I truly respect (back cover blurb from Jaclyn Moriarty no less!)
The witty-bordering-on-snark tale is told by Normandy, sister of teen prodigy comic-artist Keira, who renders her unappealing family more so in her comic book world of Vermeer.
Normandy and her quirky arts school friends decide to form a ‘truth commission’ to challenge their co-students to tell the truth about various rumours . No one beats them up or flushes their head down the toilet (it’s not that kind of school, apparently) instead Normandy gains the courage to confront her sister about the cruel parody of her younger self that is her comics persona. Barbed, witty and clever, though Keira was too selfish to come across as a real person and the artsy-school environs, while parodied, feel so entitled that it’s hard to play more than a teeny violin over Norm’s predicament.
I really enjoyed reading all these books however and hope to see much, much more of the Teeniegraph!
Further recs here at Stacked