An intimate visual exploration of depression.
In this introspective graphic novel, Mona Starr, a sensitive, bespectacled high schooler with a floppy bob, loves journaling, making art, and music. Mona struggles with both depression and anxiety, which she imagines as “dark matter,” an internal shadow she must constantly fight to keep it from consuming her. Mona comes from a comfortable middle-class home with loving, supportive parents. She regularly attends therapy and practices self-care. Although she is doing all the seemingly right things, her journey is arduous: She faces debilitating physical pain eventually leading to hospitalization for GI issues. Resolving to take her life back, Mona establishes a personalized self-care plan and surrounds herself with “Artners” (a portmanteau of partners and art) who share “creative intimacy.” Mona’s story is loosely based on events from Gulledge’s (Sketchbook Dares, 2018, etc.) own life, which she discusses in an introduction and author’s note along with sharing her own plan for self-care. With an emphasis on both physical and emotional health, this should appeal to older readers of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts (2019). Gulledge’s absorbing black-and-white art highlighted with bright yellow splashes easily pulls readers into Mona’s innermost thoughts as she strives to bring her own darkness into the light. Mona and her family appear white; her therapist, Dr. Vega, may be Afro-Latinx, and there is diversity in secondary characters.
Quietly arresting and ultimately empowering. (introduction, reading list, soundtrack, self-care plan, author’s note) (Graphic fiction. 12-adult)