Forgive me, you guys, for I meant to talk about this far earlier. Previously in the year, I received a package filled to the brim with a new adventure just for me. A wonderful lady over at First Second Books (a Macmillan imprint) contacted me to see if I would consider reviewing a graphic novel called This One Summer. It looked cute, but graphic novels are so far outside my wheelhouse that I didn’t feel comfortable saying yes. Books are books are books, but each genre comes with its own rules and expectations, so I feel like I should at least get my feet wet before attempting to critique anything, if that makes sense.
Well, when my lovely contact heard that I was unfamiliar with graphic novels as a whole, she… well, she turned into what I imagine I come off as when a non-bookish person asks me for YA recommendations. That is to say, she tricked me out. I got a package in the mail with SIX graphic novels for me to binge on! And binge I did. I saved them carefully until my family went to a resort for a week and the graphic novels became my poolside read.
I still don’t feel knowledgeable enough in the category to review any graphic novels yet, but I do want to discuss what I learned.
First, graphic novels are gorgeous. As I told my contact later, while the books themselves are a quick read (far fewer words per page than a “normal” novel), I spent much longer than anticipated with each book just because I loved soaking up the details. Whereas I’m notorious for skipping over long scenery descriptions in my usual reads, I had my nose pressed to the page for these beauties. It felt a little like reading a Where’s Waldo book, where the main plot was Waldo but I stayed long after the initial objective was met to look at the Viking with the funny expression or the mermaid beating the tree-man over the head with a boot. I read the books months ago but even as I write this can close my eyes and see the different styles vividly.
Second, despite my languorous perusals, graphic novels remain pretty quick reads. This makes them a perfect choice to slip in between longer books. Need to give your brain a break? Grab a graphic novel! Waiting in line somewhere? Open your graphic novel! No time to finish that monster of a fantasy between school books? The graphic novel awaits you. Falling behind on your reading challenge? TADA, GRAPHIC NOVEL! This isn’t to say that graphic novels are somehow lesser or “easy” reads, but merely that they can be read quickly due to a lower word count. Perfect for the busy reader on the go!
Oh and because there’s a nice balance of text and visual storytelling, graphic novels are PERFECT for reluctant readers. If you like stories but have a learning disability or just flat-out don’t want to hike over what feels like a mountain of text just to get a good tale, pick up a graphic novel! Since they’re easier on the eyes and immediately engaging because of the illustrations, they require much less upfront commitment than a regular novel, so reluctant readers are more likely to get and stay hooked.
The majority of the novels I received were contemporary books and were surprisingly deep. There were domestic disputes, tragedies, horrors, deaths, unwanted pregnancies, questions about the mysteries of life, and so much more. Interestingly though, the stories I read were also far more open ended than what I’m accustomed to. Each story would pull in so many threads through the narration and the visual cues, and then the stories would just… end. Some of the threads were neatly tied off, but some still dangled. I don’t know if this is an influence from serial comic books, but it startled me every time.
What I’d really like now is to find some solid spec fic graphic novels. My graphic novels are gorgeous, but they’re contemporary, and as regular readers here know, my jam is fantasy, sci-fi and post-apoc. So here’s my two-pronged closer: