As we enter the last month of this quickly passing year, my reading habits have continued at a frantic pace. For the next few weeks, you'll be seeing a lot of graphic novel reviews from me as I chose that genre for the focus of my final project in the class that is responsible for this burst in reading accomplishments. This week I look at one of the more cherished graphic novels of the past decade, one whose art and subject matter are exceptional. Enjoy.
Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell
(Top Shelf, 2008)
Ruthie has a thing for insects. She collects them in jars which she compulsively arranges and rearranges on the shelves in her room, convinced that if she can just get them in the correct order they might open a door to another world. When her obsessions evolve into episodes of hallucinogenic visions, the adults in her life take her to see a doctor who prescribes medicine that might help her cope with the onslaught of her acute schizophrenia, a disease that has ravaged her grandmother and also effects her brother, though his goes undiagnosed in the story. The visions continue, and grow stronger, until they threaten to swallow Ruthie whole.
Having done a lot of research on this disease for my own novel on the subject, Life is But a Dream, I can say this is an engaging and heartbreaking view of the disease that really captures the panic felt by those who suffer from it. The one thing I will say is that I felt as though the book didn't explain what was happening thoroughly enough for younger readers. I would have liked to see Ruthie be a little more aware that something was wrong with her, but I understand the choice that Nate Powell made as a way of remaining honest about a character who was lost in her own illness.