Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #13)

Page by Paige
Author: Laura Lee Gulledge
Pages: 192
Age Range: 12+
Published: 2011
Genre: Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Grade: ****
Rating: PG-13

Paige has been uprooted from her rural Virginia home and thrust into the thriving metropolis that is NYC when her writer parents get new jobs. She misses home and her friends but also looks on the change as an opportunity to reinvent herself and discover just who she really is. Armed with some advice given to her by her artist grandmother she sets out to explore her new surroundings.

Rule #1 Buy a sketchbook and draw a few pages each week.

Her sketchbook becomes a journal of sorts where she puts her feelings into images rather than words. Her frustrations with her parents, her loneliness, her self-doubts, her insecurities about her new friends and relationships, all become vivid images and help her navigate the waters of emerging adulthood.

She finds a group of friends who accept her for her strange tastes in music, her sci-fi interests and her vintage clothes. Together they support each other in their varying forays into writing and music composition and art. Slowly Paige begins to appreciate her strengths and opens herself (and her art) up to others in person, online and in the community.  She improves her relationship with her parents, finds gifts she didn't know she had, even gets a boyfriend but most importantly learns that her happiness and her future are dependent on her actions and attitudes.

Half of the story is told in typical graphic format, Paige's life and actions are displayed in panels with speech bubbles and the whole shebang but it's her responses to what happens to her and her sketchbook entries that make up the other half and give the book its oomph.  She talks herself through her feelings and gives a name and an image to everything she goes through making her experiences extremely relatable. Even as an adult I found myself having 'aha' moments and smiling inwardly as I knew exactly where she was coming from. 

Some examples: as she walks down the halls of her school she imagines that everyone is just watching and waiting for her to embarrass herself and draws an image of hundreds of telescopes zoomed in on her every move. When frustrated with her lack of ideas (writer's block anyone?) she sketches her head being wrung like a wet rag dripping into a puddle of nothingness labeled 'ideas'. And navigating the 'what ifs' of love she shows herself holding her gigantic heart in her arms trying to navigate a floor covered in banana peels.

I really loved the ideas here and the positive ways that she solved and worked through her issues and the fact that we could see and be a part of the process. I think it could give hope to kids going through the same things or help them find their own coping mechanisms. I love that she worked with what she had but didn't feel like she needed to make a huge overhaul of her life (there were no extreme makeovers or changing to fit in with other people's ideas of who she was or should be, instead she worked to improve her confidence and strengths she recognized in the moments when she felt like the best version of herself.) 
Plus, there's a soundtrack at the end. And I'm a sucker for any book that has its own soundtrack! I have a nice list of new artists to check out. Yippee!

I also found myself applying some of the rules/techniques to my own writer's quest.  Let's see if it helps!

An entertaining and thoughtful read, I highly recommend it!

Here are the rest of the rules for anyone who’s curious.

Rule #2 Draw what you know. If you feel it or see it...draw it!
Rule #3 Shhh...quiet...listen to what's going on in your head.
Rule #4 Let yourself fail. Don't take it all so personally.
Rule #5 Figure out what scares you and DO IT!
Rule #6 KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.
Rule #7 Live a lot to get better material. Let yourself feel everything.
Rule #8 Stay stimulated to avoid creative constipation.
Rule #9 Trust your gut instinct. Be honest with yourself.

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