With Reading Week past us, I imagine that most UTM students have just about had enough of school-related reading. So, here’s what I’d propose: brave the cold, head out, and get yourself a copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson. The story itself is cozy, centred around the coming-of-age of the young Thompson and all the things that are making this 17-year-old’s life way more complicated than he’d like. Raised a devout Christian, he’s battling bullies, a rocky relationship with his little brother, and a long-distance relationship with his one true love, Raina.
But things aren’t simple on Raina’s end, either. With one sister married young, she is almost singlehandedly taking care of her family. Her parents are getting a divorce, and her two foster siblings, nearly adults, both struggle with mental disabilities.
The characters are all fully developed and highly relatable, which is commendable, especially since there is not much time to build strong secondary characters. This graphic novel is nearly 600 pages long and mostly dedicated to exploring Craig and Raina’s relationship, which is described in one beautiful panel after another.
Blankets is also metafiction. Thompson is an artist, and it seems appropriate that he gets to discover his love of drawing through drawing itself. His brother, also an important character, draws as well, so it makes sense that he is featured in this story. Similarly, Raina writes poetry, expressed in the lyrical descriptions and inner thoughts Thompson includes.
Herein, I think, lies the beautiful balance of this novel. The art is beautiful, though not overly complex; the dialogue is natural, but the narration is poetic. Thompson also makes good use of panels with action but no dialogue, and similarly uses silent panels to slow down the pace.
The semiautobiographical graphic novel is not an easy medium to pull off; there is a fine line between a series of facts and just too much information. The pace of the action and the number of pages the novel takes is perfectly appropriate to the subject matter—everyday but not uneventful life.
Though the end of the novel is devastating (bring tissues), the plotline follows a full arc that leaves no ends untied. Even from a structural point of view, it is satisfying to know that everyone has been accounted for, even if not all the questions have been answered.