As Clowes traces the dissolution of their friendship, iconic
markers of coming-of-age float to the foreground: self-conscious-
ness in the face of revealing genuine interest; fear of breaking
away from the comforts of childhood; the earnest desire to leave
home; and the heartbreak of realizing a friendship is over.
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.
Marjane Satrapi. Illus. by the author. 2004.
Knopf, $17.99 (9780375422881).
Satrapi’s complete memoir is captivating
and dynamic, but the second volume, which
chronicles her experiences at boarding school
in Austria, has the most YA appeal. In ad-
dition to the usual conflicts with parents,
As Satrapi adjusts to a new culture and living away from her
parents, she faces poignant questions about her identity. Does
she broadcast her Iranian heritage and firsthand experience with
war? Or does she downplay those elements of herself so it will be
easier to fit in? Her desire for companionship, solidarity, and di-
rection will resonate with YA readers, and although teens might
not be as familiar with the specific details of Satrapi’s memoir,
they’ll come away enlightened by her story.
Blankets. By Craig Thompson. Illus. by
the author. 2003. Drawn & Quarterly,
In Thompson’s semiautobiographical
novel, he recounts the story of his first love
alongside his drift away from his Fundamen-
talist Christian upbringing. Craig spends his
childhood being instilled with the belief that
sexuality and other bodily concerns are signs
of spiritual weakness, but his love of draw-
ing and especially his burgeoning relationship with Raina open his
eyes to new ways of thinking.
Craig’s realizations about his own ideas and beliefs and how
they differ from his upbringing are quintessentially YA, and
his open, airy inked artwork brings the story beautifully to life.
One of the reasons Blankets often remains in the adult section is
Thompson’s frank depiction of nudity, but his appreciation for
the human form is essential to both his growing interest in art
and his disillusionment with Evangelical Christianity.
Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in
Words and Pictures. By Phoebe Gloeckner.
Illus. by the author. 2002. North Atlantic,
Although Gloeckner’s fictionalized di-
ary isn’t rendered exclusively in panels, her
intermittent fine-lined black-and-white
drawings are essential to the gravity of the
story, so it seems comfortably at home
on this list. The candid diary entries in
Minnie’s pitch-perfect teen voice tell of her troubling sexual re-
lationship with her mother’s boyfriend and her subsequent spiral
of destructive choices, which comes through in both her some-
times-ugly language and frank depictions of sex in her artwork.
At the same time, though, her poetic observations of the world
around her and escalating interest in art presage her immense
artistic talent and hope for her future.
Yes, her experiences are heartbreaking, even terrifying, but
there’s something so profoundly honest about the flighty, vacillating, and yet totally assured tone of Minnie’s diary entries that
encapsulate the sometimes-messy experience of coming-of-age.
Minnie’s progress is never a straight line; rather, it’s a series of circuitous fits and starts as she muddles her way through and tries
anything that sticks to give her a sense of empowerment after
facing traumatic dysfunction at home. Not every teen will relate
to the events in Minnie’s life, but her constant striving toward
something, anything better will ring true to many young readers.
Ghost World. By Daniel Clowes. Illus. by
the author. 1997. Fantagraphics, $14.99
Enid and Rebecca’s friendship is charac-
terized by acerbic aloofness and the savage
mockery of anyone and anything imbued
with an ounce of earnest appreciation. At
first, they just seem like assholes—the tar-
gets of their mockery rarely deserve it, and
their casual use of derogatory language is
shocking by today’s standards. But as they each reach toward
a less judgmental way of viewing the world, they don’t know
how to relate to each other anymore. As Clowes zeros in on the
claustrophobic nature of their friendship, he depicts the grow-
ing fracture in their relationship with such acuity that the pair
becomes almost tragic.
Blankets, by Craig Thompson.