Three starving animals, a ragtag pack consisting of Simon (an abandoned dog), Cliff (a raccoon), and Reynard (a deer), ramble across a rusted-out, dilapidated world, scavenging to survive.
When Barnaby, a slippery, sinewy new dog, joins them with tales of a town still lit up and teeming with garbage, their friendships fray. The adolescent animals in this wrenching, bleak graphic novel wear hoodies, knit caps, and tube socks, and their eyes are tired and worried. Their unlikely authenticity, the hunger and hopelessness rendered in their animal faces and darting eyes, make this woozy, utterly devastating fable terribly effective in acknowledging the people, particularly teenagers, who struggle within America’s swaths of poverty and desperation. Lee’s artwork does not shield readers from this. Abandoned strip malls, denuded forests, chain-link fences, and boarded-up houses make up this shadowy world of forgotten places, people, and pets. Both readers inhabiting economically depressed communities and those comfortably distanced from them will shudder as they plod alongside this deteriorating group of increasingly edgy friends. Inventive, varied paneling, speech-bubble placement, and shifts in palette keep their story moving even as it sometimes, even abruptly, meanders, just like the halting, confused, listless odyssey of these peripatetic animal kids.
Grim, deeply affecting, and timely. (Graphic fantasy. 10-18)