Flash Reviews (11)–Graphic Novel Edition

I’ve been wanting to read more graphic novels, but I really didn’t know where to start.  After some recommendations from trusted resources like Paul W. Hankins and John Schu, I was on my way and reading excellent graphic novels.  The idea of reviewing them is foreign to me, so I’m trying it out as flash reviews because even though I don’t feel confident reviewing them fully, I still want others to be aware of what’s out there and worth reading (in my opinion).

Stitches by David Small

Summary (From Goodreads): Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: the prize-winning children’s author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir.

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again. Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award (Young Adult); finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Writer/Artist: Nonfiction; Best Reality-Based Work)

Flash Review:  This is one of the first graphic novels I read.  It’s a memoir of David Small’s life, his very tragic life.  I don’t know if I would have been able to read it as a novel of prose, because it is certainly haunting.  David Small’s mother didn’t express emotion, which left Small without an outlet to express himself.  His cancer, which horribly goes ignored for far too long, leaves him without the ability to express himself well vocally.  These two circumstances would make one feel helpless, but David Small discovers art and is able to express his feelings and thoughts through this outlet.  Stitches is at times mature, but it’s an excellent example of a survival story and memoir.  The images say so much more than words can express.

Page by Paige by Laure Lee Gulledge

Summary (From Goodreads):

Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she’s having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Laura Lee Gulledge crafts stories and panels with images that are thought-provoking, funny, and emotionally resonant. Teens struggling to find their place can see themselves in Paige’s honest, heartfelt story.

Praise for Page by Paige
“Gulledge’s b&w illustrations are simple but well-suited to their subject matter; the work as a whole is a good-natured, optimistic portrait of a young woman evolving toward adulthood.” –Publishers Weekly

Flash Review: I’ve read some great graphic novels, but I think Page by Paige is my favorite.  Paul W. Hankins introduced me to this graphic novel when we posted the book trailer on Facebook; I wanted to read it immediately.  The images are compelling and draw the reader in to Paige’s story.  I couldn’t help but feel for Paige as she discovers herself and how to express herself.  It’s hard putting yourself out there, whether it’s to make new friends or open up a secret part of yourself.  Teens will connect with Paige and understand what she’s going through.  The images are in black and white, but they are beautiful, creative, and unforgettable.  Page by Paige is a must read!

How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White

Summary (From Goodreads): How do you know if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown?  For seventeen-year-old Stacy Black, it all begins with the smashing of a window. After putting her fist through the glass, she checks into a mental hospital.  Stacy hates it there but despite herself slowly realizes she has to face the reasons for her depression to stop from self-destructing.  Based on the author’s experiences, How I Made it to Eighteen is a frank portrait of what it’s like to struggle with self-esteem, body image issues, drug addiction, and anxiety.

Flash Review: I suppose I enjoy memoirs more than I realized, because Tracy White’s graphic novel is based on her life, hence the character’s name, Stacy Black.  She admits that much is changed for the sake of the story and her friends and family, but she suffered much like Stacy.  Too many of my students, and teens in general, deal with low self-esteem, body image issues, addictions, depression, etc.  Many times all of those issues are connected.  Tracy White’s images are very simple in design, but they are clear and convey an important message.  Stacy is suffering and doesn’t really know how to help herself.  The readers gain insight to her life through testimonials from her friends, both past and current.  This story is mature in theme.  Considering the content, I think readers who enjoy Ellen Hopkins’ novels will enjoy


  1. I read Stitches for a literacy class I had in undergrad. I agree, it would be a hard one to read in an actual novel form. It is a good graphic novel though.

  2. I’ve been trying to beef up my reading–and classroom library–of graphic novels. It’s not a form that I’m naturally drawn to. I’m adding these titles to my list to read. They actually look good. My students (8th grade) have been devouring the Amulet series. Hopefully, I can get them back to read myself. They also like Smile by Raina Telemeier. I loved it.

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      I’ve been wanting to read Smile, but haven’t gotten my hands on it yet. I really like reading graphic novels now, but I still struggle with making sure I spend time taking in the images while I read the text.

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