Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book Review: Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

I feel like most graphic novels have an advantage over non-graphic books in that they don't have to introduce the characters and the setting--you can see them instantly so it's easier to feel immersed right away. Not so with Mr. Drnaso's book. His characters I actually found hard to tell apart, to the point of even sometimes not being able to tell if a character was male or female until much later. So initially I felt held at arms length.

It begins with Sabrina and her sister Sandra at their parents' house where Sabrina is house-sitting. They have a casual conversation about Sabrina's boyfriend and crossword puzzles. Then we jump to an airman, Cal, who works in a cubicle (a lot of people are shocked that the majority of military jobs are in office buildings just like yours and mine, the only real difference being what people are wearing.) He has left work to pick up a friend at the train station. The friend isn't doing too well. It's an old friend, Teddy, and Teddy's girlfriend, Sabrina, went missing one day after work. It's been a month. No one is hopeful. Teddy is obviously despairing and really grieving. Mostly he lies around, half-naked, not eating, not doing anything. Cal is very worried about him, hiding his guns, forcing him to eat, checking on him. But there's a limit to what Cal can do. He says he thinks Teddy came to him because they haven't been close as adults and he needs someone who didn't know Sabrina and where there's some distance. Meanwhile, Cal is trying to figure out what he's going to do when his tour is up--apply for a big promotion he's a shoe-in for but would involve him going undercover, or getting out and moving to Florida to be near his estranged wife and young daughter in hopes of reuniting with them.

I really got sucked in. It's got a lot of text but it wasn't at all a chore to read. The book felt very current as eventually conspiracy theorists, Reddit nuts, and trolls get involved and attack Sabrina's family, Teddy, and Cal, after Sabrina's story takes a dark turn. I found the ending rather sudden and I wish it had wrapped things up more. But that doesn't stop it from having been a really immersive, and very different book. I hadn't read anything like this before, particularly in this format. The vague figures eventually allow you to impose on them your own feelings and thoughts about what's going on. And as I've sat with it throughout the day, the ending is bothering me less and less. I think it's about how life goes on no matter what. It's always one day after another, after another.

This book is published by Drawn & Quarterly, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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