Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days! Or search #365GN on Twitter.
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This piece of literary YA graphic fiction is a few years old, but it’s timeless in its exploration of familial relationships and the hangups that keep us from growing as quickly as we’d like.
Title: Bad Houses
Author(s): Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
Publisher: Dark Horse (2013)
Age Rating: 13+
Literary graphic fiction might be my favorite genre of graphic novel. I guess it’s the English teacher in me, but a solid work with allusion, some nice character connections, and realistic base stuffed with honest emotion is right up my alley.
Bad Houses is about a group of people in a small town and the objects/people that connect them. In many ways, the story reads familiar for the genre: girl meets boy; they have secrets; the past catches up to them in Act 3. But Bad Houses is unique in the way it is narrated and constructed. A narrator fills in our gaps like a sharp voice-over in a successful indie film, and Ryan has also scripted may unique panel/page layouts to switch up the story’s pacing. For example, as a character, Cat, sits at a table, waiting for people at an estate sale that she is running to purchase items, we get a montage of conversations, purchases, and multiple images of a clock to indicate the passage of time…all on one page. And I must say, the montage in the graphic novel format is highly underused.
The black and white art is nice, bringing the reader back to a simpler time in their own life. Our characters range from early college to, well, much older, so we get a broad collection of character perspectives, and these perspectives allow the story to develop as it does, reflecting on what it means to face one’s mortality and the fickle connection to material objects.
For a book that keeps itself in the PG-13 realm, I’m impressed it speaks so loudly. Subtle yet effective, I’m surprised I’ve not heard about this book until five years after its release…
OK. I’m going to switch up the endings of a few of my last reviews in this 365 quest. One of my life goals is to be one of the peeps that drops quotes on the backs of graphic novels. For example, on the back of Bad Houses, there is a quote from Warren Ellis: “[Bad Houses] is the best graphic novel I’ve read all year. Superbly observed, exquisitely drawn, with a sharp bite and a real human pulse. Magnificent.”
Cool, right? So, I’m going to try one of my own for the next 30 or so books to show these publishers what I got! And authors, if you like what I got, tell your people that you’d like The Other Comic Book Teacher to quote-up your next book!
Here is my quote for Bad Houses: “Bad Houses is the type of graphic novel that you keep out in the open, allowing you to freely engage with others about the power of objects and how they connect our lives.” Not bad, right? It’s a start. I’m tired. It’s 10:22 P.M., and I still got to get to some grading.
P.S. As I proofread, my opening line is a pretty good back book quote as well: “A timeless exploration of familial relationships and the hangups that keep us from growing as quickly as we’d like.”
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