While never preaching, this volume makes a forceful case for creative license and personal liberty, as the artist discovers...



A sharp eye for detail, self-deprecating humor and subtle, shadowy drawings highlight this engaging, ambitious graphic narrative.

Though “graphic novel” has become the catch-all category for book-length comics aimed at adults, the genre continues to extend itself, encompassing everything from graphic fantasy to graphic memoir and diary to what Delisle (Pyongyang: A Journey to North Korea, 2005) here terms a graphic “travelogue.” The artist makes no attempt to convince the reader to visit the Chinese city from which he couldn’t wait to escape. As a Canadian native now based in France, Delisle is no stranger to cultural dislocation, yet he wasn’t prepared for the strangeness and isolation he would feel when he traveled to China to direct a team of animators on a TV series. Within the workplace, the hotel and the restaurants he stumbles upon (where he proves far more open-minded and adventurous than many readers would be), Delisle runs into so many barriers that he ends up exploring is his own psychological state here. As he attempts to place his experience amid the industrial, impersonal Shenzhen within Dante’s circles of hell, he underscores the value of the freedom he ultimately enjoys against the contrast of a city sealed by an electric fence, with armed guards in watchtowers. Even the techniques of animation become lost in translation, with standards slipping amid the crunch of deadlines, and no one seeming to care. The artist himself questions the value of sharing what he experienced during his stay in China, yet the Kafkaesque drawings that accompany his frequently droll narration are their own reward. Shenzhen may not be a nice place to live, but it’s a provocative city to visit—in graphic form, at least.

While never preaching, this volume makes a forceful case for creative license and personal liberty, as the artist discovers that there’s no place like home.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 1-894937-79-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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