A 16 year old girl called Helen Potter leaves home, running from an abusive father and a mother who doesn't care. She finds herself begging on the streets of London and, along with her pet rat and a bag full of Beatrix Potter books, she begins a journey similar to Potter's out of her horrible situation into a place where she is safe and happy both in mind and body.
Bryan Talbot does a fantastic job depicting the horrors of street life in London. The sprawl, the crazies who are out there preying on the young and vulnerable, and those who would help them, namely those in similar circumstances albeit somewhat older. Talbot also deals with the issue of abuse delicately and yet brutally as well. We see the circumstances in which it happened and how it affected Helen. The psychological damage it does to a young mind is written clearly and honestly so those who haven't been abused (eg. me) could follow and begin to understand the victim's feelings.
Talbot also throws out facts about rats and their history, as well as the life story of Beatrix Potter. Helen's journey takes her to the Lake District which was Potter's home for many years and he draws absolutely stunning landscapes of the area. He also puts together a Beatrix Potter-esque story at the end of the book "written" by Helen. The artwork throughout is brilliant with Talbot opting for the first time to use human models to draw from to add an extra dimension of reality to the story.
Why this is labelled "Young Adult" is insulting as anyone should be able to read this without being put off that it might be "childish". It's a searingly honest look at a taboo issue in our society and deserves a wider audience than simply "young adults".
A brilliant and moving comic book from one of the masters of the medium, Bryan Talbot's "The Tale of One Bad Rat" is an utterly engrossing and wonderful read. Highly recommended.