As the year winds down, I realize that I don’t have many more weeks to post my 2017 reviews. Lately, I’ve been checking out quite a few graphic novels from my local library. It was a lot of fun reading these books over a weekend. All three of these were really good (and quite twisted too).
44. The House That Groaned by Karrie Fransman
When Barbara moves into her new apartment at 141 Rottin Road, she has no idea that the Victorian building houses some rather unique individuals. There’s Brian, who is only sexually attracted to women who are either dying or have some incurable disease. Then there’s Janet who is obsessed with weight loss. Another neighbor feels so invisible that she literally blends into her surroundings. Did I mention the lady upstairs who embraces a hedonistic lifestyle of eating and debauchery? Each of these residents is very lonely and possess a dark secret. The House That Groaned is a delightfully twisted book that explores our bodies and the spaces we inhabit.
I was initially attracted to this book for its awesome cover of the building itself with real cut-out windows. The art style in the rest of the book is unlike anything I’ve read before in a graphic novel. Fransman uses a dark blue palette with all of her characters drawn with very pronounced cheeks. She also doesn’t shy away from nudity or gore, both in abundance here and works well with the more beautiful side of life that she creates.
I loved getting to know all of these characters from a psychological perspective. As the story progresses, we get flashbacks into each of their lives revealing a dark secret. Each revelation pertains to their physical bodies (either how they see themselves or others). I love graphic novels that are about real social issues! Sometimes the truth is hard to look at but necessary as Fransman’s art and words blend together beautifully. Also, I love how the building itself serves as a character in its own right.
This is a quick read that can be finished in under an hour. However, I still feel like Fransman created a complete story. As I was reading, I had no idea where the story was going and had to stop for a moment during a pivotal scene where everything started happening fast. It was very shocking! I will definitely check this author out again in the future.
45. Coraline: The Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman
Although I’m a huge Gaiman fan and have watched the film of this story a couple of times, I’ve actually never read the book. Coraline Jones and her parents have just moved into a very old house in the countryside. Every day, Coraline finds herself quite bored. Her parents are both too busy to pay her the attention she craves while her neighbors can’t even get her name right (they call her Caroline). When she is given the task to explore and outline their new home, she finds a mysterious door that opens into a brick wall. One night, she discovers the wall is gone and the door leads her into a twisted version of her own home. There’s another mother there and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them. Forever.
Gaiman’s dark children’s story is brought to life wonderfully by P. Craig Russell. The illustrations are beautifully rendered and detailed. There is a richness of color during the daytime scenes while the nighttime ones are extremely creepy and dark. I particularly love how Coraline’s “Other Mother” is drawn.
Gaiman’s stories are always so much fun, but he also always captures humanity so well. Russell does an excellent job of preserving the emotion of the original story while enhancing it with his great illustrations. If you are a Gaiman fan, or just love dark fantasy in general, I highly recommend this book.
46. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
Alexandra, also known as Lexi, first discovers the Night Bookmobile after she has an argument with her boyfriend and spends the night walking the streets of her city. In the middle of the night, she finds parked an old Winnebago blasting some of her favorite music. As it turns out, the vehicle is a library run by the enigmatic Mr. Openshaw. This mysterious bookmobile is special because the only literature it contains are books that Lexi has read during her lifetime. As the Night Bookmobile leaves for the night, Lexi becomes determined to read as much as she can and to become night librarian herself.
This is a book for all of us lovers of books out there. It is beautifully drawn. I love all of the little details relating to the bookmobile, like how every time Lexi finds it again, the building has grown to encompass everything she has read since the last visit. A particular book becomes blank at the point where she abandoned it. It also contains anything non-book related that she has read, such as old cereal boxes.
This is another short work, but is so very emotionally rewarding. The ending is both disturbing but beautiful at the same time. The Night Bookmobile is a great book about the relationships we develop with books and what we are willing to sacrifice for that love.
“Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasure, of immersion into words.” –The Night Bookmobile
Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know your thoughts! Please comment below!