Thursday, December 02, 2021

Graphic Memoir Review: Other Boys

When I read about Other Boys by Damian Alexander on Completely Full Bookshelf, one of my favorite blogs, I knew I wanted to read it. Nonfiction November was the perfect time for this coming-of-age graphic memoir aimed at middle-grade and teen readers (but enjoyable by all).

Damian begins his memoir with a powerful and engaging statement: "I stopped talking on the first day of seventh grade." He goes on to explain that he was bullied horribly at his old school, so his strategy for the new school is simply to disappear--if he never talks, then no one can bully him, right? As you might expect, that plan backfires. His narrative moves back and forth from his earlier childhood to his current seventh-grade struggles. He's had a difficult life. His mother died violently when he was very young, and his father is gone (it's a stunning story, when he gets to that part), so he and his older brother live with their kind, loving grandparents. His focus, though, is on his feelings of being different from other boys, of not fitting in. He was blissfully unaware of his differences when he was very young, but as he grew older, he began to hear a steady stream of "that's not for boys," "only girls do that," "you can't do that," and similar statements. For instance, he loves to play with dolls, and his dolls are his comfort and his companions when he's young, but once he gets to school, he's teased. He makes some friends in his class, but within a few years, his best friends (all girls) are told that girls don't play with boys, and they withdraw, leaving him alone. Gradually, the reader comes along on his journey to see how he got to where he is in seventh grade--alone, isolated, and silent--and how he eventually moves forward and begins to see himself in a new light.

Sample pages from Other Boys

This is a very powerful memoir with a lot of emotional depth to it, and it provides insights into how people in our world who are different are often pushed aside, bullied, and made to feel less than. The story is told through evocative, realistic, full-color drawings; narrative; and dialogue that all comes together to paint a comprehensive picture of Damian's childhood. It's a mix of joy and pain that you can tell has taken him a while to come to terms with (though he makes some progress by the end of the book, and you know he is going to be OK). It's a powerful, authentic narrative of a childhood marred by violence, bullying, and feeling isolated, with plenty of hope at the end.

203 pages, First Second

NOTE: In some ways, this graphic memoir reminded me of two others I recently read, involving boys coming of age and figuring out who they are - both were also excellent.

Flamer by Mike Curato, another graphic memoir about a thirteen-year-old boy who is bullied and gradually learns to accept himself, amidst a disapproving religious background.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, a graphic memoir about another boy raised by his grandparents, without his parents, who loves to draw.

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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  1. Thank you again for the shout-out! You really summed up why this book is so impactful—it's still startling to think about how much bravery it took to write about these experiences as a memoir. But I expect tons of readers will really benefit! Thanks so much for the great review, and for sharing this great book with more readers!

    1. Thanks for telling me about this wonderful book! You make a good point about the courage required to write a really honest memoir.

  2. This sounds really good! I like it when an author can thoughtfully look back on their life and make it relatable to kids/teens

    1. I think a lot of kids who feel different will relate.