I didn’t know very much about this book before I started reading. I knew that it was a massive graphic novel (592 pages), and that it was a semi-autobiography about teenagers, love, and religion. What drew me to this book was the art. I know nothing at all about art, so feel free to laugh at me if I can’t coherently explain why I like it. The art in this book is simple and cartoonish, but not so cartoonish that it can’t display realistic emotion. I like that it’s black and white and “sketchy” looking. My favorite pictures are the snowy landscapes and the pictures of Craig and Raina together. Yeah . . . that’s the best I can do at describing art. I’m done now.
The story is kind of heartbreaking. It’s about isolation and trying to figure out what to believe. Craig grows up in a strict religious environment. He is bullied at school and abused at home. When he becomes a teenager, he falls in love with a girl named Raina and starts to question his religious beliefs.
The best part of this graphic novel is its honesty. The author doesn’t hide anything from the reader. I couldn’t stop reading this book because it feels so real and so relatable. I worried about the characters and wanted them to find happiness. I was happy when they were happy. The story is quiet, but it’s powerful.
Some of the best scenes are the ones between Craig and his younger brother. For most of the book, they have an adversarial relationship. They would both be less isolated if they got along. They suffer a lot of the same abuse, but like all siblings, they can’t always relate to each other.
I really like Craig and Raina’s teenage romance. It’s a little intense, a little scary, a little sappy. Craig is a strict Christian, and there is a lot of tension between what he wants from the relationship and what his religion allows. Some of his religious beliefs are so rigid that they prevent him from enjoying life. He even gives up art at one point, even though he’s passionate about drawing. His struggle to find balance is interesting for someone like me who has never been in his position.
Another awesome element of this book is the blanket motif. Blankets show up over and over throughout the book. Blankets are gifts, playthings, shields, and comfort objects. They are allies in winter and adversaries in summer. There’s even a blanket of snow on the cover. It’s a simple motif, but it adds so much to the story. It ties everything together.
So, obviously, I love this book. If you’re a fan of realistic graphic novels, this is a must-read.