Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Blankets

I first was introduced to Blankets through Tumblr. A beautiful cover, a beautiful spine, it was often in photos of blue-gray mornings, comfortable quilts, a sleepy cat and snowy skies. A candle would flicker by it and the imagery just welcomed me in. Come, read this, the photos said. Relax, find comfort, you're in for pleasure and peace. I assumed it was a book due to its thick size but upon searching for it on Goodreads, I realized it was a graphic novel. I haven't much experience with graphic novels: I've read a few here and there but I certainly wouldn't say it's a large percent of my reading. To be fair, I've begun reading more graphic novels recently, but that's only a very recent change in my reading temperament. It made me pause, uncertain if I'd like to read it, but just as soon as I posed that question to myself, I shot it down. Of course I want to read it.

And then I didn't. I didn't read it for years. The book sat on my TBR list and I would swoon over every cozy photo where the book was displayed. "Right, Blankets. I really need to read that." I would see it at comic shops while out and about and think it again. "I should buy this, but it's over $30. I could buy two books for this price." So continued this cycle for years.

Over the summer, I visited my local Barnes and Noble and discovered they had performed an overhaul of the store, rearranging where everything was and making me utterly confused. B (the beau) and I have "date nights" and the book store that are pretty straight forward: we go to the store and immediately separate. He goes to sci-fi and I meander from section to section. Eventually, we find each other (usually I track him down in sci-fi) and review the books we have before checking out and heading home. These are some of the best dates. I love it. We're together but in our own worlds and it's awesome. But I digress, on this particular bookstore date I was left meandering not due to browsing over various titles I wanted, but because I had no idea where anything was. Up and down aisles I was making mental notes of where various subjects had been placed, and eventually I found myself in a graphic novel row. 

I honestly couldn't tell you with 100% accuracy where the graphic novels were before this. I sent in requests for the Graveyard books so that all I had to do was pick them up at the front of the store. But now, graphic novels were right next to fiction. There had been a lot of talk recently about graphic novels that found its way into my life and grabbed my interest, I mean, Thor being a woman? Yes, please.

But on this particular trip, rather than speeding through the graphic novels section, I lingered. I looked over the different graphic novels and eventually remembered Blankets. It was always relatively large in the comic book stores so surely I'd find it in these shelves of thin books. I didn't search long before finding a beautiful hardcover copy of Blankets--the only copy the store had. I grabbed it, looked at the price, and groaned. It was so pricey, was it worth it?

So I found B over in the sci-fi section (one of the few areas that hadn't been rearranged) and showed him the book. "I've wanted to read this for years but it's sort of expensive. I don't know if I should get it." He looked at the book, looked at me, and replied, "Get it." It was decided.

We went home and I settled onto the couch with a cozy blanket and opened the book up. Immediately, I dove in and four hours later, I closed the book after reading the final page.

This isn't unheard of and I assume it's quite common for people when they read graphic novels, but I always fly through them. I think it helps that there's a lot of picture viewing and not as much text to read. It's visual and, for me, that doesn't take as long as reading worded descriptions of visuals. Often enough, I'll go back and reread graphic novels, or just flip from page to page and gaze at each photo.

Most of the scenes in Blankets happen during the winter and I want, badly, to read this again during a snowstorm (come on El Nino, bring us some snow this winter! Give me a white Christmas!). Our writer, Craig, begins the story by introducing himself and his younger brother, as well as their various antics while they were little and shared a bedroom. They grow and become teenagers, sent to Bible camps and dealing with the typical teenage woes.

Craig is awkward and somewhat of a loner. He's an artist, always drawing away, but he's also quite religious. These two things could go hand in hand but Craig begins to feel guilty about his artwork, that it's taking away from serving God, and he pushes it to the side to focus on religion even more.

Every Christmas vacation, he goes to one of the church camps and meets a girl. Quickly, they develop feelings for one another. They grow close and a long-distance relationship blooms. Where the book takes place, Wisconsin, winter lasts a bit longer than it does here in Virginia so it could seem like a blip of a thing when in actuality the story spans out over time. But Craig goes to Michigan to visit his "sort of" girlfriend and they become closer than ever before.

I really love that much of this book has the most pivotal moments happening in bed. Secrets are shared, memories made, and all while nestled around blankets. The title is very appropriate but it gives you a cozy feeling of looking at your past and the events that unfolded which made you the person you are today.

Craig's life isn't necessarily easy. As I mentioned, he's a teenager. What teenager's life is easy? But he's a teenager who begins to question his faith and that's something I certainly identify with and witnessed. I was raised Catholic and as a teen, I witnessed all of my friends who were also Catholic begin to question their faith. Some continued with the religion, others faded away, some stopped believing completely. I think it's totally understandable for teens to question their beliefs and it's an honest depiction in this book. Really, Craig's thoughts hit me right in the feels. It's all so similar it's almost painful.

Watching his relationship with his girlfriend grow then fade while his relationship with his brother is reflected by how close they were as kids to practically strangers as teens was an interesting comparison. The presentation of both reflected the stages of relationships and how one went out of fashion while another became prominent.

It's all just so... lovely. I may not have been going to Bible camps as a child or taking trips to see a girlfriend. I wasn't a teenage boy. Yet... I identified with this and it settled in my heart. I got it, I got the emotions and all that was going on, and teenage years are so horrible yet so memorable--the author got that.

Last Week's Review:
 Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
Next Week's Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

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