There's something truly wonderful about the medium of graphic novels. Somehow, if the art is brilliant, the book can convey so many different emotions without too many words and that's exactly what happens in Blankets by Craig Thompson. This is a beautifully drawn and written book about the pain of adolescence, trying to fit in, religion, first love, first heartbreak and growing up.
Thompson based the book on his own childhood in Wisconsin with his younger brother Phil, and his devout Christian parents. Craig always felt like an outsider not just at home but at school. He found comfort in his art and his drawings. One day in his teens, he goes to a religious summer camp and falls in love with a beautiful girl called Raina. The two share a long distance relationship for a while then Craig finally visits Raina and her own dysfunctional family. But as first loves go, this one inevitably has to end.
If you look at the panel above, you can tell exactly what's going on and you don't even need words to describe it. Craig has just met Raina. They're shy, awkward and embarrassed but quite obviously attracted to each other.
This is a beautiful graphic novel and incredibly emotional. Every page has wonderful drawings that completely convey the depth of Craig's feelings for everything in his life. The book opens with the young brothers fighting over the blankets on the bed they share. The Wisconsin winters are incredibly harsh and both brothers are freezing. Their quarrel soon attracts the attention of their domineering father who punishes one of his sons by locking him up in a cubby hole. Thompson's drawings are so spot-on that they'll even give you a little shiver. As the book continues, we feel Craig's isolation, his disillusion with religion, his experiences with Raina, his heartbreak and finally growing up and finding himself. This is a unique book even among graphic novels. Thompson is obviously quite talented and I look forward to exploring more of his work. Even if you're not a fan of graphic novels, you'll love this one.