02 October 2007

Review:: Breaking Up (graphic novel)

"In the stormy ocean that is high school, the four of us clung to our friendship like a raft." --Chloe Sacks

There are so many stories out there about break-ups between lovers, but let's not forget about sisterhood, ladies. Emotional divides between your best girlfriends really can be just as painful.

Friedman takes four girls and puts them through the meat grinder that is maturing into young women. There are certain aspects of the story that certainly feel real to anyone who's had to brave the late teens. The ocean wave of acne, boyfriends, and pressure is pretty effective. Each character deals with sexual pressure/desire, though it is the trend nowadays to speak of it more frankly and openly.

While the text is usually superb, Norrie's sumptuous drawings kick the story up a notch and create a layer of texture that the written story alone couldn't expose. The illustrations during a New Year's Party glitter with freedom and insecurity at the same time (p. 74 is a beautiful example). Page 15 shows the girls through the years, and I imagine it's very difficult to show maturity in just a handful of drawings that barely measure two inches wide.

Growing into a young adult is a difficult time to really accept yourself, as Chloe finds out. It's the time when people grow apart, and hurt does fly around like jagged snowflakes. Ultimately, though, how much power should you give your friends and your enemies?

Story: 7.95 of 9. This was an enjoyable book but see "Characterization."
Illustrations: 8.75 of 9.
I found Chloe, Isabel, and Erika to be quite real in their heartbreak over being true to themselves and being good friends. Mackenzie, though, becomes such a one-dimensional, insensitive juggernaut that I found it hard to take her seriously. I think that there are ways of making her a bit more human and still keep her controlling and obsessive nature intact.
The succinct observations about youth and the expressive drawings ensure that the story move along swiftly.
From early teens up
Like it? Try this!::
I'm assuming this is a series (the cover says "A Fashion High Graphic Novel"), but it appears we'll have to wait for those. In the meantime, read "The Breakup Bible" by Melissa Kantor. How about anything by either Friedman and Norrie?
Further Notes::
I think this is a must-read for young women. It certainly means something different to me, nearly ten years out of high school, than to someone who is living through it right now. Unfortunately, though, having problems with your friends is not just a high school issue. *SIGH* Here's to friends and all their quirky ways!

Breaking Up. By Aimee Friedman. Illustrated by Christine Norrie. Graphix, 2007. 192 pages. $9.99