If you'll remember, a while back Beth challenged me (in the comments) to read ten graphic novels this summer. Because I have a deep, deep antipathy to being told what to do (ask my parents, siblings, spouse, and former employers), I bristled at the "ten" part of the challenge, but I did compromise and say I would read ONE GN, of Beth's choice. She was a good sport and made some suggestions--and they were good suggestions. So good that I read TWO whole graphic novels, and am still trying to track down the third. So today, part one of the graphic novel challenge.
The first of Beth's picks that I read was a small YA graphic novel titled Mercury, by Hope Larson. It's very much YA material; the protagonist is a teen girl (two teen girls, actually, as the story pivots back and forth in time between a current-day story and an historical one) experiencing some family issues, first love, and even a bit of witchcraft (or, more accurately, cases of "second sight") thrown in.
The modern story centers on Tara, a girl staying with her aunt and uncle and cousin in a fictional town in Nova Scotia, after her and her mother's home has burned down (and her mother is working a job on the other side of Canada). The historical story follows events in the life of Tara's ancestor, a girl named Josey, whose life is turned upside down when a gold prospector arrives at her family's farm to look for gold on their property, and eventually enters into a mining partnership with her father. Different events are causing upheaval in each girl's world: Tara is about to go back to high school after being homeschooled for several years, and Josey finds herself falling in love with the mysterious gold prospector.
So what happens? Well, the copy on the back cover takes it from there: "As Josey's story plunges into tragedy, Tara's emerges with the promise of gold." Because it's a YA novel, and a graphic novel at that, if you're so inclined, you'll be able to read the whole thing in not much longer time than it will take you to read this review, so that's all I'm going to say about the story. But as for the experience of reading the graphic novel:
I liked it. I did. It was a fast read; one of my favorite things about graphic novels is that it usually takes me all of a half-hour to read all but the longest ones. And I liked certain conventions of the art--about halfway through the book I noticed the page background on the historical story was black and on the modern story it was white, which was a nice touch (and I was dense not to notice it sooner). But...I didn't love it. The art was basic cartoon, simple but nothing special. Ditto with the story--interesting but not fascinating, and when I finished it, I had too many questions to feel satisfied. (Mr. CR read it too, and we concurred in our opinion that the book and story ended too abruptly.)
Part of the problem, I thought maybe, was that I am unused to reading fiction. After Mr. CR finished the book and I asked him my several questions, he finally opined, "I think you're supposed to fill in some of the story yourself." Oh man, I thought. I have become such a slave to nonfiction that I need everything spelled out for me in fiction too. That's no good! So I worried about that until, a week later, I read Anita Brookner's novel The Debut, and I didn't have any questions about that at all. (I mean, I had questions, but not the "am I missing something here" type questions...) So, ironically, in this graphic novel, spelled out in both pictures and text, I felt unsatisfied.
But all in all, for a YA graphic novel? Not bad.