Friday, January 09, 2015

Fiction Review: Ghost World

As I’ve mentioned recently here, I have been exploring the world of graphic novels, especially those for YA and, for the first time, those for adults. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes is one graphic novel that often shows up on Best Of lists, including the Flavorwire 25 Essential Graphic Novels list I have been making my way through. So, I requested it from my library and read it recently. I can see why it is so highly acclaimed, though I didn’t like it as well as others I have recently read.

Ghost World is a coming-of-age story about two young girls who have grown up together and have been best friends. Enid and Rebecca have recently graduated from high school, and they are at loose ends, stuck in a kind of limbo between the artificial world of high school and the real world of adulthood. They spend a lot of time wandering around the streets of their city and sitting in diners, in a quest for the most ironic, pathetic diners they can find.

Enid and Rebecca are the very definition of snarky. Their favorite pastime is making fun of people and making up crazy stories about strangers (and sometimes friends). They are bored and unsure what to do with their lives and living in a kind of apathetic, unproductive fog that – for most people – only occurs at that particular age. They sometimes have fun together but neither of them is particularly happy. Eventually, by the end of the novel, they will both reluctantly move forward with their lives.

I didn’t relate directly to Enid and Rebecca  - I was more of a wild partying/ goal-driven teen (admittedly, a strange combination in itself)  - and am now much too old for the target audience of this graphic novel anyway! But I can see that it is a realistic, sharp, funny depiction of that in-between age where teens hover on the brink of adulthood, anxious for something to happen but not quite willing yet to completely give up their carefree childhoods. This graphic novel is the very definition of teen angst, and it shows beautifully how young adults sometimes use a sharp tongue to cover up their own anxieties and insecurities.

Besides perfectly capturing these coming-of-age moments, Ghost World is also entertaining and often funny (though, be warned, that like most 18-year olds, Enid and Rebecca can be pretty raunchy!). Although I prefer the less snarky coming-of-age story in Blankets by Craig Thompson (another graphic novel I recently read), I can see the appeal of the sarcastic, awkward tone of Ghost World, especially for its target audience. In fact, I read that it was made into a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch, and I would definitely like to see Enid and Rebecca come to life on the screen.

80 pages, Fantagraphics Books


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