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Review: Blankets by Craig Thompson


Ever read a memoir in graphic format? I grew up equating anything with pictures = comics. And I just recently read my first memoir graphic "novel" (something I never believed possible). In fact, I never knew this was a memoir until after reading it. Or maybe I realized it at some point while I was reading, when I noticed that the protagonist was named Craig Thompson - same as the author's name. In all the reviews I've read so far, somehow I never caught that fact.

Blankets is the story of Craig's childhood, teen and early adulthood years. It is so poignant and beautiful, that it's really hard to express it verbally. In fact, I read this book a couple of months ago, but never reviewed it till now, because for the first time, I was at a loss for words. How can pictures capture so much emotion?

Craig didn't have an easy childhood. As with any pair of siblings, there was a lot of rivalry between Craig and his brother. But there was a lot of love and playfulness too. At school, Craig got bullied a lot and once home, he would try to act the boss when he was with his brother, even though he was often racked with guilt at his own actions. How Craig confessed this in the book is really wonderful - flitting between the past and the present. It is very hard for this to work well in pictures, because the author has to make sure that the reader understands that this is a flashback, without being explicit about it. In fact, although the whole story is told chronologically, there are several flashback elements that tie an event to an earlier circumstance.


Craig was always a misfit. This is what caused him to be bullied a lot. In addition, a particularly traumatic episode in his childhood forever affected him. These events led him to be very religious, because he could not understand why he was being bullied. Eventually, he began to feel aimless, and turned to drawing and dreaming to escape reality. Craig's struggles tore at me. He powerfully illustrates how his beliefs flitted from one to the other, how some circumstances influence you so much that you start building different hypotheses to explain them. It was clear that Craig had a lot of regrets. The impressive part was how well I could see that through his drawings.

Over time, he became good at identifying other misfits, and that's how he met Raina, his first love. Even in spite of all the bullying that he regularly endured, Craig always remained himself. He didn't try to impress others or pretend to be someone else, and that was such a powerful message coming from the pages, in this age, where first impressions are so important. Right from the start, you start rooting for the couple. Both Raina and Craig are shy by nature, so it was wonderful seeing the two bond together. While earlier, he was never encouraged much to draw, through his relationship with Raina, he began drawing more.

Through the book, we also see how his faith changes over time. From being blindly devout, to slowly beginning to question beliefs to overtly rejecting certain aspects of it. I've never tracked the progress of my faith with my real-life events, but that's how your faith changes. Seeing how Craig mapped them well made me curious to know how things had been in my life - how the cause and effect circle of life worked.

There are so many moments in Blankets, when you probably will go thinking that this happened to me, or that you totally understand how something feels. There is just so much feeling and emotion in the pages, and it's not even a short graphic book. I think I picked this book to read sometime during my very busy months for a break - instead I got a total book's worth and I didn't even come out of my room for dinner until I finished it. I'm glad I left it so long before reviewing, because I noticed that I am still as WOWed by it as when I finished it. This is one of those books that you really have to read before understanding why everyone is raving about it - even I wondered what the whole hoopla was about.


  

Check out this book @ Goodreads, BetterWorldBooks, Amazon, B&N.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Comments

Ash said…
I have wanted to read this book for so long! I went to a great alternative bookstore on Monday and got another one of Craig Thompson's books, which I'm really looking forward to.
I saw this at the library and wondered about it. It does seem rather sad when i read a few pages from it. Glad you enjoyed it.
bermudaonion said…
I love graphic memoirs and think this one sounds fabulous! I wish we could figure out a way to teach children to celebrate differences instead of ridiculing them.
This sounds like a really good one for me to get for our library! Thanks for the thoughtful review!
Tales of Whimsy said…
This sounds amazing. Great review.
Marg said…
This book was recommended to me as soon as I mentioned that I had read my first ever graphic novel. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it in my library etc, but I keep on looking.
Athira said…
Ash, I'll be looking forward to what you think of the other Craig Thompson book. This was was superb so I hope you will get it!

Diane, it is a sad book. I felt for the protagonist. But it's powerful. You should read it!

Kathy, I agree. Esp right now, there is so much of hate going around that it's hard!

Helen, you should read it, but before you get it for the library, I suggest you read it. I'm not sure about the age-appropriateness factor.

Tribute Books Mama, you're welcome!

Juju, thank you!

Marg, awww, I hope you will get it soon! It is an amazing read!
Marieke said…
I've been wanting to read this... I think I should put it on my Christmas wish-list. I love those books that really stay with you for a long time afterwards.
Athira said…
Marieke, I would so love to hear your thoughts on this book! Hope you enjoy it!
Five-Eyed Bookworm said…
I am pretty excited to read this book. It's one of the graphic novels I included for next year's Graphic Novels and Manga Challenge. I'm so glad you liked it!
Athira / Aths said…
Yay! I hope you love it. It is a fabulous book!

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