Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Blankets

I've been on a somewhat small graphic novel reading jag lately, and my latest foray into that zone is Blankets by Craig Thompson.

Blankets is a combination coming of age/first love story. In Blankets Craig Thompson is also the main character, and he crafts a memoir of his childhood with themes like growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family, sibling relationships, first love, and sex.

Blankets is told chronologically, but Thompson uses flashbacks to illuminate certain aspects of the book. This novel begins with a story about how Thompson and his brother had to share the same bed when they were kids. Like any two young boys, they bug, and tease each other endlessly, but when these altercations inevitably escalate, one of them would wind up relegated to "The Cubby Hole", a tiny dusty hole in the wall, as punishment. This first tale sets up Thompson's narrative and artistic style, and got me hooked early. From there Thompson follows his childhood through church, schoolyard bullies, and his shady babysitter. From early on his love of drawing is at odds with his spirituality. His parents see his "doodles" as a perversion, causing Thompson to be confused and to doubt his gifts.

His only release from his personal pressures is his Christmas vacation, but even that is interrupted by his once yearly trips to Church Camp, where his status as an outsider is even more magnified than usual. However, as a teen, on one such Church Camp visit, he meets Raina a girl who Thompson develops a relationship with. Though their relationship is a long distance one for the most part, the two seem to lend each other stability in their otherwise confusing and tumultuous lives. Their relationship builds to a crescendo when Thompson takes a two week trip to Michigan to stay with Raina.

Thompson does a fantastic job delivering the love story between Craig and Raina. Blankets is such an open, honest, and sincere story, and that story telling style makes it easy to fall into as a reader. I could easily connect with Thompson in his young love experiences. As the story goes on, it is interesting to see how much that relationship impacted his decisions and his young adult life. I felt like I would have preferred greater detail given to his late teen, and early twenties, as I felt the conclusion to this story was a bit rushed. However, at nearly six hundred pages, very few other details are skimped.

Thompson does a wonderful weaving art and story. He uses a stripped down style of black and white art that is the perfect compliment to the story, which is expertly paced and wonderfully written. I think the greatest thing about Thompson's art is how it lends atmosphere to the story. It was amazing how his drawings often seemed to scream emotions and place you right in the center of events.

Blankets is one of the most perfectly crafted graphic novels that I've read in my short time with the medium. Thompson dealt out laughs, love, sadness, joy and strength with amazing skill. From the opening panel I was hooked, and was easily sucked back on the rare occasions I picked the book up after setting it down. I think this is one of those books that just about anyone, anywhere could get into, yet despite how accessible it is, it never once feels generic. Read, and enjoy!

Grade: B+

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