At last, a graphic novel for middle-aged women. Don't worry, It's just as relevant for a younger readership. The book offers a poignant, hilarious, and subtle observation of the relationship between a mother and son. A day-by-day account of a long summer holiday during the uncommunicative teenage years. It will strike a particular chord for any parent of a heavy metal-loving non-sporty child, but the emotions are universal. It reminded me of one of my own sons at that age (also a Metallica fan) and I will definitely be sending him his own copy. My partner has read it and he loved it too. On the surface it's a quick and easy read, but there's a wealth of detail that is richly rewarding if you pay close attention. I have left it on the coffee table so I can keep picking it up and revisiting it. The characters are well drawn - in every sense. Daniel's hunched figure and his long lank hair that doubles as a defence to hide behind, Sue's large glasses and wistful expression as she catches occasional reminders of the warm and easy relationship she once had with her beautiful boy, now turned into a black-clad remote and sarcastic stranger who is embarassed to be seen in public with her. You hardly know whether to laugh or cry at some of the dialogue:
Sue, 'You know, we did once used to have quite a nice time together...'
Daniel, 'Yeah, but that was before you got really annoying.'
Sue, silently watches Daniel, contemplating some resemblance to her absent father.
Daniel, not even looking up, 'Okay, stop looking at me now.'
At times he is merciless, and Sue, who has her own baggage, is often reduced to tears, but there are flashes of warmth between them that let you know that Daniel is no monster, just a boy finding his way through a difficult time, and slowly moving towards the maturity to relate to his mother as a fellow human being. The other main characters, Ky and his New Age mother are also familiar and well-depicted.
So five stars from me and many more if I'd had them to bestow. Warm, funny, sly, moving, authentic and sharply observed. Wonderful. Can't praise it enough.
Ps. Update: I did buy one for my son and he reported back that he caused a bit of a stir by laughing out loud on the bus while reading it. He said it was the funniest thing he had read in ages, so that's a recommendation from two generations of this family.