Review: Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell

Y’all, at some point, I’m going to do a mental illness reading challenge.  Is there already one?  I’m going to do one if there isn’t already one.  I love mental illness (I mean I do not love it.  It is awful and ruins people’s lives.  I just find it very interesting).  As soon as I think of a clever name and invent an adorable button, I will be all over this, and Swallow Me Whole is one of the books you can read for it.  PREPARE YOURSELVES.

I read Swallow Me Whole for the Graphic Novels Challenge!

Swallow Me Whole is about two step-siblings called Ruth and Perry who both see and hear things that other people can’t.  Perry sees a small wizard creature who tells him what to do, sometimes things he doesn’t want to do.  Ruth collects insects in jars and rearranges them endlessly; she hears them speak, and she believes that she can perceive patterns that most of the world is missing.  Ruth starts taking pills; Perry does not.

At first I had some problems with the style of art and the lettering.  The lines are slightly wavery, and the letters are too, and I kept having to read the words twice.  I thought: Aha!  This is what people complain about when they say they have a hard time with graphic novels!  Overwhelming art and letters!  In the end, though, I adjusted and enjoyed the book quite a bit.  Like Ruth and Perry, the reader is not always sure what’s real and what isn’t.  It’s disorienting and scary, which makes it easy to sympathize with the characters.  I love it that Nate Powell writes characters with severe mental illnesses, while keeping them relatable.

I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what happened at the end though.  It made me feel stupid.  I hate it when I finish books and feel stupid.  I finished and felt stupid and resented Nate Powell with his, you know, wobbly lines, and I went online to see what he had to say for himself.  And you know what he said?  He said if there was ambiguity, it was probably down to bad storytelling.  Actually in this case I think I am just stupid, but I appreciate Nate Powell for saying that.

Mental illness challenge.  I’m going to do it.

Other reviews:

Stuff As Dreams Are Made On (thanks for the recommendation!)
Reading Thru the Night

Let me know if I missed yours!